North Carolina health officials say there have been 16 new flu deaths in the last week

EMBED </>More Videos

There were 16 new flu-related deaths reported in North Carolina (WTVD)

North Carolina health officials said there were 16 new flu-related deaths between February 19 and 25th, bringing the total for this flu season to 63.

The number of deaths for the week increased by 60 percent compared to the numbers released last week. The news comes as health officials in Halifax County said Wednesday an infant has died of complications from the flu.

A statement from county's public health system said it wouldn't release any additional information.

Get more health news with the ABC11 News App

64 percent of the adult deaths have involved people 65 years old and older.

The breakdown of deaths for the latest report are as follows:

65 and older: 11
50-64: 4
25-49: 1

Health experts have long said that people over the age of 65 are most at risk for the influenza virus because of their vulnerability. That's not to say other age demographics are not at risk.

RELATED: Two children among 10 new flu deaths in North Carolina

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 34 infant deaths associated with the flu during the current season.

Doctors encourage people to take the following preventive steps from contracting the flu:

North Carolina flu season officially started October 2, 2016.

According to data provided to ABC11 from WakeMed, recent flu stats are as follows:

  • Week ending February 18 - 273 positive flu tests (out of 1284 flu tests ordered)

  • Week ending February 11 - 175 positive flu tests (out of 897 tests ordered)

  • Week ending February 4 - 115 positive flu tests (out of 712 flu tests ordered)

  • Week ending January 28 - 50 positive flu tests (out of 525 flu tests ordered)

To prevent contracting and spreading the flu, health professionals are still encouraging people to:

- Avoid touching your mouth, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home from school or work if you are sick.
- Wash your hands with soap and water.
- Get the flu shot.

Susan Snavely, a supervisor in WakeMed's pathology laboratory says her staff has noticed an increase in flu illnesses.

"We've seen a steady rise. We do about 50 (flu tests) a day," Snavely told ABC11. "And that's a lot more than we typically do."

WakeMed gave ABC11 exclusive access to their pathology laboratory for a behind-the-scenes look at the 24/7 operation, which includes flu testing.

As of Feb. 25, WakeMed declared 286 positive flu tests out of 1,461 flu tests ordered since the beginning of the flu season.

"We're seeing a very sharp peak this year versus more of a slow, not as high peak," Snavely said. "But it went on for longer. It went on through the spring last year. We're hoping this year it will peak high and just drop really quickly."

Pathology staff take flu tests from patients and inserts them in an "ink cartridge-type" machine that was developed at the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The device was initially designed for the postal service to assist in detecting Anthrax.

"If we have a sample that we question, we'll send it to the state lab for discrepancy. But our test is very accurate," Snavely explained.

And while Snavely believes the season may see one more uptick in deaths, WakeMed staff will be ready if and when that time comes.

"We follow the flow. If the samples come in, we do the testing. And we may have to bring in some of our techs who are working on other testing to help out," Snavely said as she referenced the potential spike.

ABC11 also discovered a discrepancy in the number of deaths reported compared to last week.

"Some of the deaths DPH didn't find out about until maybe 2-3 weeks later, like maybe someone had cancer and it was later found they had flu in their system, etc.," an official with the Department of Health and Human Services told ABC11.

Report a Typo
Related Topics:
healthfluflu preventionhealthnorth carolina newsDurhamRaleigh
(Copyright ©2018 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

More flu season

More Health & Fitness

Top Stories
Show More