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NC flu deaths triple in one week

Posted January 8, 2015
Updated January 13, 2015

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— Thirty people in North Carolina died of flu last week, confirming state health officials' fears of a spike in flu-related deaths as the annual flu season nears its peak.

According to figures released Thursday by the state Department of Health and Human Services, 54 people have died of flu across North Carolina since the season began in October. That includes seven earlier deaths that were only recently confirmed as being caused by the virus.

The bulk of the deaths, 42, have been among people age 65 or older. Five of those who died were between the ages of 50 and 64, another five were ages 25 to 49 and two were children.

"In terms of intensity, the flu activity has been more intense as measured by visits to emergency departments," Dr. Megan Davies, state epidemiologist, said during a Tuesday news conference.

More than 10 percent of the people who visited physicians or emergency departments statewide last week were suffering from flu-like illnesses, according to DHHS.

Of the 52 samples from patients that were submitted to state labs for testing last week, 38 tested positive for flu, including 16 from Robeson County and seven from New Hanover County.

One reason for the spike in deaths, officials said, is that a specific strain of flu – H3N2, a type of Influenza A – is not well-matched to the flu vaccine for this season. Despite that, officials still recommend the flu vaccine for those who have not received it.

"Flu vaccine protects against three of four strains of the flu, depending on which one you received," Davies said. "We still think it's very important to get the flu vaccine. It can still protect many people and prevent hospitalizations and deaths."

The flu is now widespread in all but seven states, and hospitalization rates match the dismal season two years ago. While health officials fear this will be an unusually bad year, it's too soon to tell.

Many hospitals and community clinics across the state have restrictions in place to keep people under 18 and those with flu symptoms – high fever, body aches and chills, cough or sore throat and a runny or stuffy nose – from visiting patient areas. Beginning Friday, WakeMed will restrict patient visitations. No visitors under the age of 12 or visitors who are experiencing fever, diarrhea, cold or flu-like symptoms will be permitted in patient-care areas.

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  • John McCray Jan 9, 2015
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    I wouldn't classify that as child abuse. Heck, there is no guarantee that the flu shot prevents the prevalent flu strain in any given year.

  • 68_dodge_polara Jan 9, 2015

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    Most people making our food at restaurants don't have paid sick time. Think about the implications of that.

  • AppStgrad Jan 9, 2015

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    I don't think that's true for every job. Most people push themselves and/or are pressured to work if sick, but really and truly the world won't stop turning because you take a few sick days. I think many people sort of relish the thought that their office/store won't make it a few days without them, but it most likely would.

  • 68_dodge_polara Jan 9, 2015

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    The fact is that it's almost worthless this year which makes it pretty much just a money maker rewarding those that did a bad job.

  • Betty Lanier Jan 9, 2015
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    That goes for any job. How many places out there will let you take 10 days of sick time just because you may have the flu?

    These days, you have to work sick or not. If you still have to work when your sick, may as well infect the whole office.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Jan 9, 2015

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    We should all get the flu shot because the science demonstrates that we, individually and as a society, are better off if we do. It prevents sickness and death and this is proven, peer-reviewed time and time again.

    Of course, it's your right to ignore our planet's best minds who are using the best problem-solving methods that we humans have ever had.

    Just know that you're not adversely affecting just yourself, but also your family, friends and others you may care about. If you still don't care, think about how would you feel if someone didn't get *any* vaccines and, while you were picking up a friend at the airport, you caught something life altering. Golden Rule and all that...

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Jan 9, 2015

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    If it's possible for people to do so, I agree. Problem 1: you're contagious before you have symptoms. Problem 2: There are plenty of people who have low-paying jobs and if they don't work for 10+ days (the contagious time of the flu), their family goes hungry...or their heat gets shut off.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Jan 9, 2015

    Can we put parents who don't vaccinate their children in jail if the child gets sick and/or dies? ...and *not* continue the religious exemptions? It's child abuse.

  • theliberadicator Jan 9, 2015

    Wow, the lawsuits the CDC and other agencies will be facing may very well put them OOB.

    That would be the best that can come from this near pandemic.

  • 68_dodge_polara Jan 9, 2015

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    why?

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