First flu-related death of the season reported in North Carolina

The first flu-related death for the 2019-2020 flu season in North Carolina has been reported.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced the first death Thursday in a news release. The person died during the first week of October. The victim was described as "an adult in the central part of the state."

The death comes as medical professionals are reporting a mostly mild flu season so far.

"We are very saddened by this death and send condolences to the loved ones of this person," said State Epidemiologist Zack Moore, M.D., MPH.

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The person's identity won't be released to protect the family's privacy.

"There seems to be a lull over the last week or two, but we just don't know," said REX physician Dr. Damian McHugh. "These cases tend to come in clusters."

UNC-REX is reporting there have been less than 20 influenza cases. During October, the system says there have only had six positive flu cases throughout all seven urgent cares across Wake County.

That could be credited to more people getting the flu shot and taking advantage of the free offerings.

Even with low numbers, doctors are warning more cases could be coming soon.

Doctors are encouraging folks to get their flu shot by the end of the month to get the most out of it.

McHugh says the fall activities most of us enjoy, such as the North Carolina State Fair and those pumpkin patches, are breeding grounds for the flu virus.

"People are mingling. If there are some flu virus out there, this is an environment where it'll be shared and passed on," said McHugh. "People are coming into Raleigh from all areas of the state, so they're coming in from their small towns and if they have a particular infection in that group of people, they can transmit it a new group of people."

Last flu season, there were officially 208 flu deaths. Of the 208 deaths, 133 were age 65 or older. Five were under 18.

The department recommends several precautions to protect against the flu:

  • Stay home when sick until fever-free for at least 24 hours
  • Wash hands frequently, preferably with soap and water
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then discard the tissue promptly
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