Health Team

Alamance child adds to steady climb in NC flu deaths

Posted January 23, 2014 7:34 a.m. EST
Updated January 23, 2014 6:14 p.m. EST

— At least six more flu-related deaths were reported in North Carolina last week, state health officials said Thursday, bringing the total this season to 33 statewide.

The figures, which run through Jan. 18, don't include an Alamance County child whose flu-related death was reported Wednesday.

"This is deeply saddening news, and we extend our thoughts and prayers to the family," Alamance County Health Director Barry Bass said in a statement.

One other child, an infant in eastern North Carolina, has died of the flu this season. Meanwhile, 15 people ages 25 to 49 have died of the flu, along with nine between ages 50 and 64 and eight people age 65 or older.

At this time last year, 41 people across the state had died of the flu. In 2011-12, there was only one flu-related death by mid-January.

"We're seeing a slightly different picture of the flu this year than last year," State Epidemiologist Dr. Megan Davies said. "The younger adults, the more vulnerable, those tend to be the people who tend to think they don't need a flu shot."

According to the latest state report, more than 300 people came down with the flu last week, with 280 of those suffering from the dangerous H1N1 strain.

The number of visits to hospital emergency rooms for flu-like symptoms declined last week, the report said, but the number of visits to physician offices and outpatient clinics increased.

High levels of flu activity are expected over the coming weeks as flu season typically peaks during January and February.

The best protection against the flu is a flu shot, which is available for anyone 6 months old or older. It takes at least two weeks to build up a full immunity against the virus.

Hand-washing, coughing into your sleeve and keeping a safe distance from people with flu symptoms are practical ways to help prevent the spread of the flu.