Widespread flu claims another life, hitting schools
Posted December 18, 2014
Updated November 9, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — One person in North Carolina died from the flu last week, according to data released Thursday by the state Department of Health and Human Services.
Five people, including two children, have died from the flu during the current season, which began in October. The person that died last week was between the ages of 50 and 64, but no other information about the person was available.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says North Carolina is one of the most active states for the flu in the nation. Fourteen states have reported widespread cases of the flu, meaning flu cases have been confirmed in more than half of a state.
Area parents say the flu has hit hard in schools. Some Wake County schools reported unusually high absences Thursday, while others said absenteeism was at normal December levels.
In Cherokee County, in the southwestern corner of North Carolina, all 14 schools closed a day early for the holiday break because of a growing number of flu cases among the 3,600 students. The district's Facebook page says the extra day off "will give our custodians, teachers and bus drivers the opportunity to clean and disinfect the buildings – and the germs time to die."
At WakeMed in Raleigh, officials reported 217 confirmed cases of the flu since Dec. 1.
Dr. Selam Bullock, a pediatrician at Kids First Pediatrics in Raleigh, called this the worst flu season she's seen in years.
Bullock said she has seen 40 flu cases already this month, compared with 21 for all of the 2013-14 season.
"It's a bad disease. It's deadly," she said.
She blames a new strain of the flu virus that has made the vaccine less effective than most years, yet she said a flu shot is still a trusted defense that can prevent a trip to the hospital.
"It's just one little thing you can do to give them a chance of at least – if not completely preventing the flu – making it very weakened," Bullock said.
Flu mist, which is sprayed up the nose, is more effective than a shot for young children, she said.
Flu shots are especially encouraged for populations most at-risk from serious illness, including young children, the elderly or those with chronic health conditions.
Flu vaccine effectiveness tends to vary from year to year. Last winter, flu vaccine was about 60 percent effective overall, which experts consider good.
The flu season runs from October to May. Last season, 107 people in North Carolina died from influenza.