10 additional flu deaths reported in North Carolina

So far, 56 people have died from flu-related complications in the state this flu season.
February 6, 2014 3:59:17 PM PST
North Carolina health officials released new flu numbers Thursday, saying 10 more people have died since their last report.

That brings the total number of deaths from flu-related complications this influenza season statewide to 56, and the majority of those affected are young adults.

The papers released by the state Department of Health and Human Services show the biggest age group affected is 25 to 49.

DHHS says nine of last week's victims were adults. Only three of those who have died from the flu since the season started in October have been children.

Experts say the strain going around is H1N1, the same strain from 2009, which hits the younger generation harder because people in their 50s and 60s actually have some immunity from past exposure. The shift in strains is a big difference from last year.

"Last year was almost all another flu virus called H3N2, which does tend to hit the elderly harder. Last year we had a lot of nursing home outbreaks, most of our deaths were people over 65, just a very different picture," said Dr. Zack Moore, with N.C. DHHS.

Also different this year, obesity, which is playing a bigger role in the number of people hospitalized.

"Almost half of the people hospitalized with flu nationwide have been obese, which is higher than usual, usually we see it in the 20% to 30% range," Moore said.

Obesity is considered an underlying health factor, which can be a dangerous combination with the flu.

While 21 deaths have been reported in North Carolina in the past two weeks, doctors say the rate of new flu cases in the state is slowly dropping.

Flu 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.

Public health officials continue to urge those who have not been vaccinated yet to do so.

Flu vaccination is the most effective treatment against the flu. If you have not gotten your flu vaccine yet this season, it's not too late. 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.

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