Influenza activity and flu-related deaths are rising in North Carolina as the peak of the 201617 flu season nears. Three influenza- associated deaths were reported during the week ending Dec. 31. The total number of influenza- associated deaths reported this season is now seven; this does not represent all flu-associated deaths in the state, since many go undiagnosed or unreported.
Meanwhile, Betsy Johnson and Central Harnett hospitals, as part of the Cape Fear Valley system, have restricted visitors under the age of 12 due to the flu outbreak.
Influenza is now widespread throughout most of North Carolina. State health officials encourage all residents to protect themselves and others against the flu. Although vaccination early in the season is recommended, it is never too late to get vaccinated and help protect yourself and others from the spread of this dangerous, sometimes deadly virus.
“Flu will still be circulating for at least the next several weeks,” said Dr. Zack Moore, acting state epidemiologist. “Getting vaccinated now helps protect you and those you come in contact with.”
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The number of flu-associated deaths reported in North Carolina since 2009 has varied from nine during the 2011–2012 season to 218 during the 2014–2015 season. This serves as a reminder that flu can be a serious illness, especially for adults older than 65, children younger than 5, pregnant women and those with certain medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease.
Dr. Moore encourages everyone to use precautions to protect against the spread of flu and other viruses, including:
• Wash hands frequently, preferably with soap and water or an approved hand sanitizer.
• Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then discard the tissue promptly.
• If you are sick with flu, stay home until you have been fever free for at least 24 hours.
For more information on flu and to find out where you can get a flu vaccination in your community, visit www.flu.nc.gov.
Weekly updates on flu surveillance data are now available at www.flu.nc.gov.