North Carolina sees first toddler flu death of the season

A total of 11 people died from the flu in North Carolina throughout the week of Feb. 23 to March 2.

That's way down from the prior week when 24 people died.

Doctors said that good news is to be expected as the flu season wanes.

"Flu numbers are coming down. Visits are coming down and the overall number of deaths are coming down as well. So, overall I think we're heading in the right direction," Dr. Ed Piqueras told ABC 11.

Piqueras is a doctor at WakeMed and works in both the adult and child emergency departments.

So while he was glad to see the numbers declining statewide, he was dismayed to note that three of the 11 deaths were among young people under 24 years old.

Of those three, one was in the toddler age group - up to four years old.

It was the first death in that category this flu season.

There was also one death in the five to 17 age group. That was the second one in that group this flu season.

The one other death among young people - in the 18-24 age group - was also the first in that category in the current flu season.

"We have had a slight increase in the number of deaths in younger people. It's hard to kind of put your finger on it. As numbers are coming down you know this may just be a couple of outliers, but it does remind us that we still need to be cognizant, we still need to be aware that influenza is potentially a very dangerous infection," said Dr. Piqueras.

And even though it appears flu season is winding down, there is still plenty of cases out there.

In just the first five days of March 2018, WakeMed patients have tested positive for the flu.

Dr. Piqueras said the best way to avoid getting the flu is still to be vaccinated.

"You have to get vaccinated. Vaccinate your children. Six months and over..vaccinated. You're not going to get sick with the vaccine. It's not going to give you the flu. But it can certainly save your life or save your child's life," he said.

He said it's also important for parents to closely monitor their children's health for flu symptoms even if they've been vaccinated.
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