RALEIGH, NC - The latest flu numbers from North Carolina's Department of Health & Human Services showed 18 new flu deaths for the week ending in Feb. 24. This brought the total number of deaths since the flu season started on October 1, 2017, to 253.
"We're seeing a decline," said DHHS flu epidemiologist Anita Valiani. "But just to keep in mind, we're still seeing a lot of activity. So people should still get a flu shot."
Valiani warned North Carolinians to not let their guard down even though this year's flu season has peaked and the trend is likely to spiral downward.
"There's still time for activity to increase," Valiani explained. "It can be back every year. There's still time for illnesses and viruses to circulate."
Compared to previous years, this flu season has proven to be deadlier.
"I think in terms of the number of cases, it's probably average," said Dr. Wells Edmundson with Raleigh Medical Group. "The problem is that we got a resistant strain out there. So a lot of people who got the flu shot are still getting sick."
Edmundson also said he believes it's too early to call it quits for this year's flu.
"It tapers off in the spring, of course, but it's still out there," he said. "What we need is a good snowstorm. That'll keep the kids at home. Then they don't pass the flu around at school."
In North Carolina, more than 190 seniors have died as a result of the flu. That figure includes a patient Edmundson once treated. The doctor added there were other factors that crippled her immune system to fight the flu effectively.
"She had been a heavy smoker. She had emphysema. She was 94 years old," Edmundson explained. "And she also had (RSV) on top of the influenza virus."
He also offered a tip for North Carolinians ahead of next year's flu season.
"I tell my patients, when the State Fair comes to Raleigh, go get your flu shot," he urged. "All the kids in Wake County go out there and mingle, take it home to their parents. State Fair is a great time to get your flu shot."
According to the CDC, across the United States, 32 states reported high levels of flu activity in the last week. During the same time period, nine states reported low or minimal flu-like illnesses. Since the beginning of the season, 114 children in the United States have died as a result of the influenza virus.
To view North Carolina's flu report, click here: http://flu.nc.gov/data/documents/flu1718.pdf
To view the CDC's nationwide flu report, click here: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/index.htm