Local News

Teen is NC's first flu death; officials urge vaccinations

Posted January 6, 2011 11:02 a.m. EST
Updated January 6, 2011 6:22 p.m. EST

— A 15-year-old died Wednesday of complications from influenza, becoming North Carolina's first fatality of the flu season, public health officials said Thursday.

The teen's identity, hometown and gender weren't released to protect the family's privacy, officials said.

“The death of this healthy young person is a tragic reminder of the potentially devastating effects flu can have on people at any age,” State Health Director Dr. Jeff Engel said in a statement. “Most flu infections can be prevented by getting the vaccine. Flu vaccine is readily available and affordable this year, and is the single most effective way to protect yourself and your loved ones.”

The teen who died hadn't received a flu shot this year, officials said.

Statewide surveillance shows that flu is now widespread in North Carolina. The southeastern U.S. has had most of the flu activity nationwide so far this season, officials said.

“Flu season lasts into the spring, so if you haven’t been vaccinated, it is not too late,” Engel said. "A good vaccine match can reduce the chances of getting influenza by up to 90 percent.”

This year’s vaccine protects against three strains of influenza, including the H1N1 virus that caused a global scare a year ago.

Flu vaccine is recommended for anyone over 6 months old and is particularly important for high-risk populations like pregnant women, people with chronic diseases, very young children and the elderly, officials said.