Five more flu deaths reported in NC
Posted January 9
Raleigh, N.C. — Five people died of the flu in North Carolina last week, bringing the total number of flu-related deaths statewide this season to 21, public health officials said Thursday.
Thirteen of the 21 deaths have occurred in the last two weeks, officials state Department of Health and Human Services said. Earlier, five deaths were reported during the week that ended Dec. 28, but officials said they have now confirmed flu was the cause of death for three more people during the week.
All but two of the 21 flu-related deaths have been in young and middle-aged adults, most of whom had underlying medical conditions, officials said. The other two were in people over age 65.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Zack Moore said only two of the 21 people who died had received a flu shot, and officials don't know if the other two were immunized in time for the vaccine to become effective.
The predominant strain this year is H1N1, the same one that caused the 2009 pandemic that led to more than 100 deaths statewide. Moore noted, however, that this year's vaccine covers H1N1 while the shots given out five years ago didn't.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and DHHS recommend the flu vaccine for everyone over the age of 6 months, but Moore said convincing young adults to get a flu shot isn't easy.
"When we have a season like this with H1N1 being the main virus going around, we do have to try extra hard to reach those people and let them know that it's not just the elderly that are being affected," he said. "This is something that could be a serious problem for younger adults."
He added that he believes the actual number of flu deaths in North Carolina is far higher than 21, noting many flu-related deaths are never reported.
Flu season peaks in late January to mid-February. Most insurance companies cover the cost of a flu vaccine. Average prices at pharmacies and grocery stores are between $25 and $30.
- Coughing and/or sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Headaches and/or body aches
To help limit the spread of the virus, several local hospitals – UNC Hospitals, Rex Hospital, Duke University Medical Center and Cape Fear Valley Medical Center – are restricting access to certain visitors. In Fayetteville, for example, children under 12 aren't allowed to visit patients.