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Widespread flu claims another life, hitting schools

Posted December 18, 2014
Updated November 9, 2015

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— 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.

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  • jughead25 Dec 19, 2014

    The school system that closed early for the holidays in response to the flu trends should receive a pat on the back. That is a tough call to make but well worth it.

  • Judy Fergerson Dec 18, 2014
    user avatar

    Simply Hans - some people took the flu shots and still had the H1N1 flu like me - glad I got the shot because I honestly believe had I not it would have taken me on home

  • Alex Stephens Dec 18, 2014
    user avatar

    Going to www.flu.nc.gov I read these are lab confirmed flu deaths.

  • Alex Stephens Dec 18, 2014
    user avatar

    Did they die from the flu or were they presumed to die from the flu? Was the diagnosis based on confirmed lab samples or does the number include anyone who died whose symptoms included respiratory distress?

  • Ty Rammstein Dec 18, 2014
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    107 people died in NC form the flu in NC last year. that is tragic but evidently not a big deal as i did not see it in the media 24/7 like ebola. but have you noticed...? since the election is over the ebola hype, once fueled by the media and fear mongers in the GOP has gone away. just 6 weeks ago one could not escape the ever preset stories and ads telling us ebola was going to be used by terrorists and that mexican immigrants had eboal and were coming our way. now nothing. and now 5 people in NC have died from the flu.much more than died form ebola in the ENTIRE USA and we hardly care...or hear about it..makes a thinking mind wonder...

  • rushbot Dec 18, 2014

    We had a neighbor whose 8 year old child has the flu with a fever of 105 degrees which they can't get below 101 degrees with treatment. The parents do not believe in flu vaccinations, and did not get one for their child.

  • Simply Hans Dec 18, 2014

    GET you shots people!

  • Obama-in-2016 Dec 18, 2014

    OMG NOOOOO!!!!!

  • bige9999 Dec 18, 2014

    Since I complained last year about the lack of demographic info in this type of article, I should thank you WRAL for including some of the info now. So...thanks!!