Both victims were adults from the Triad region of the state. According to State Health Director Laura Gerald, one of the individuals was at higher risk for complications from flu because of advanced age and pre-existing medical conditions but the other had no known risk factors for severe influenza illness. Neither had received the flu vaccine.
"We extend our deepest sympathies to the families of these two individuals," said Dr. Gerald. "This is a tragic reminder of the potentially devastating effect flu can have on people at any age. With flu cases on the rise in North Carolina, it is especially important for the public to take action to protect themselves and their families."
Officials said flu activity is on the rise statewide. The number of positive flu tests recorded by the State Laboratory of Public Health has more than quadrupled since early November.
The flu vaccine is the safest and most effective way to protect against flu and is recommended for anyone over six months old. It is particularly important for people at high risk of complications, including pregnant women, people with chronic diseases, very young children and the elderly.
According to newly released information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just over 46 percent of North Carolinians were immunized against flu last year.
"Every flu season is different," Gerald said. "In addition to vaccination, we strongly encourage citizens to prevent flu and other illness by covering coughs and sneezes; washing hands frequently with soap and water; and staying home when you are sick."
Influenza kills approximately 25,000 people and causes 220,000 hospitalizations every year in the United States.