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Health Team

State officials say flu 'very virulent' this year

Posted January 16, 2018 1:11 p.m. EST
Updated July 13, 2018 1:41 p.m. EDT

— At least 42 people have died during this year's flu season, which has gotten off to an early start and will only get worse in the coming weeks, state officials say.

North Carolina Secretary for Health and Human Services Dr. Mandy Cohen said last week that 26 people statewide, including two children, have already died of the flu since early October, Cohen told a legislative oversight panel, and she urged people who haven't already gotten a flu shot this year to get one.

On Thursday, however, state officials updated the total, bringing the death toll to 42.

The vaccine is a pretty good match for this year's flu bug, she said, but the virus is more virulent than usual this year – it's very contagious, and it's hitting people hard.

"What we're seeing is a very virulent strain. So, while it may be covered by the flu vaccine, it's an intense virulence, and we're seeing folks get sick and sicker," she said.

Getting a flu shot can help reduce the severity of the flu if you do come down with it, and it protects people around you as well, Cohen said.

"Even if you're like, 'Well, I'm pretty healthy. If I get the flu, fine. I'll be out of work for a few days,' no, it's really a matter of who are your contacts, and are you bringing that to those who may be immunocompromised around you – those who are elderly and those under the age of 5," she told lawmakers.

The flu vaccine is readily available, she said. More than 350,000 units have been shipped across North Carolina as part of a statewide immunization program.

The shot takes about two weeks to take full effect – just in time for the peak of the flu season next month and March.