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Flu-related death total climbs to 115 in North Carolina

Flu-related death total climbs to 115 in North Carolina

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The number of flu-related deaths in the state has climbed by another 25 to 115, the N.C. Division of Public Health reported Thursday.

Fifteen deaths were reported for the week that ended Feb. 22, along with 10 deaths from previous weeks.

Of the additional deaths, 13 were people age 65 or older, eight in the 50-64 age range and four were ages 25 to 49.

The number of reported flu cases fell for the second consecutive week, this time by 16.4% to 4,916 for the week that ended Feb. 22. The seasonal peak was 7,162 cases that occurred in the week that ended Feb. 8.

The state Department of Health and Human Resources has extended this flu season’s reporting period to the week that ends May 16. The typical flu season is measured as Oct. 1 through March 31.

The DHHS cautions that the weekly count does not represent all flu-associated deaths in the state because many could go undiagnosed or unreported.

The DHHS’ public-health division does not release a victim’s hometown, county, age or gender for privacy reasons.

Of the 115 who have died so far this flu season, 67 were 65 or older, 30 were ages 50 to 64, 15 were ages 25 to 49, two were ages 5 to 17 and one was age 0 to 4.

On Jan. 8, all of the Triad’s main hospital systems began prohibiting visitors 12 years and younger because children are more likely to get sick and spread the flu. Those hospitals include Forsyth and Wake Forest Baptist medical centers in Winston-Salem and Moses Cone Hospital in Greensboro.

Exceptions may be made in special circumstances, such as visiting a dying family member.

Dr. Christopher Ohl, an infectious disease expert at Wake Forest Baptist, said Feb. 22 that “here locally, it looks like we’ve reached the peak of flu season, but the peak is broad and infections are still occurring.”

According to the Walgreen’s weekly flu index, as of Feb. 8 the Raleigh-Cary metro area ranked fifth in the nation for current flu activity. North Carolina as a whole is ranked ninth.

Over the past week, influenza A became the most prevalent strain in North Carolina at 3,920 confirmed cases, followed by 3,817 cases of influenza B, 1,290 cases of 2009 A(H1N1) and 30 cases of A(H3).

A spokesman for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that one reason why this flu season has been more virulent is because it’s the first time since 1992-93 that influenza B has been identified more often than influenza A nationally.

The number of deaths in North Carolina’s past flu seasons, at this point totaled 117 in 2018-19, 278 in 2017-18, 74 in 2016-17, four in 2015-16, 176 in 2014-15 and 82 in 2013-14.

At the end of past seasons, the number of flu-related deaths in North Carolina was 208 in 2018-19, 391 in 2017-18, 218 in 2016-17, 60 in 2015-16, 219 in 2014-15 and 107 in 2013-14.

Health officials recommend that those age 6 months and older get a flu vaccination.

Besides the elderly, other vulnerable groups are children younger than 5, pregnant women, people with preexisting medical conditions, and residents of nursing homes and other long-term care centers.

rcraver@wsjournal.com

336-727-7376

@rcraverWSJ

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