It said the patients from Eastern North Carolina, the Triad region, and the Charlotte area were middle aged adults who were at increased risk for influenza complications due to underlying medical conditions.
"We extend our deepest sympathy to all of the families on their loss," said Acting State Health Director Robin Gary Cummings, M.D. "We hope that these tragic cases will help alert other people to the risks associated with contracting flu."
Health officials said flu season has actually gotten off to a relatively slow start this year. Cases usually peak in January in February. Complications can be particularly dangerous for high risk groups including infants under 2, pregnant women, and people with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, or immune system problems.
"Anyone in a high risk group who gets the flu should see a doctor right away so they can receive treatment with an antiviral drug," Cummings said. "Early treatment with an antiviral drug can mean the difference between a mild illness and a very serious illness."
Flu vaccination is the most effective treatment against the flu. If you have not gotten your flu vaccine yet this season, you should get one now. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against influenza virus infection. Flu vaccine is widely available and protects against the strains of flu circulating this year, including H1N1. Flu vaccine is available in nasal spray and shot form.
For more information on flu prevention and to find out where you can get a flu vaccination in your community, visit www.flu.nc.gov.