RALEIGH — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is reporting the first flu-related death of the 2022-23 flu season. An adult in the western part of the state died due to complications of influenza during the third week of October. To protect the privacy of the family, the person’s hometown, county, age and gender will not be released.
“This is a sad reminder that flu can be a serious illness and can lead to complications and even death in some cases,” said State Epidemiologist Zack Moore, M.D., MPH. “With flu cases increasing and COVID-19 still with us, it is tremendously important for people to get a flu vaccine this year.”
While influenza cases and deaths were historically low during the 2020-21 and 2021-22 influenza seasons, the number of influenza deaths reported in North Carolina ranged from 186 to 391 during the five prior seasons. Currently, North Carolina is seeing an increase in illnesses caused by respiratory viruses other than COVID-19, including influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), that is greater than at any time since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020.
The CDC recommends flu vaccination every year for everyone 6 months and older. Vaccination is the best way to prevent infection with the flu. Vaccination can also make illness milder for those who do get the flu, making it especially important for those at higher risk of more serious outcomes, such as people over 65 years old, children younger than 5, pregnant women and those with certain medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Flu and COVID-19 vaccines can be administered at the same visit.
Flu vaccinations are available at hospitals, pharmacies, private medical offices, some federally qualified health care centers and local health departments. To find a flu vaccine near you, visit www.vaccines.gov/find-vaccines.
In North Carolina, flu infections are most common from late fall to early spring with activity usually peaking in January or February. The following precautions should be taken to protect against the spread of flu and other viruses:
- Get your flu vaccine. Flu vaccines can be given at the same time as bivalent COVID-19 boosters for those who are eligible.
- Stay home from work or school when sick to avoid spreading infection to others.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then discard the tissue promptly.
- To layer up protection, people can practice the 3Ws — wearing a face covering over your nose and mouth, waiting 6 feet apart, and washing your hands often can help slow the spread of flu and other respiratory viruses.
Individuals who feel ill should call ahead before going to a doctor’s office, local health department or urgent care to avoid exposing others. Flu symptoms include:
- Cough and/or sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Headaches and/or body aches
- Nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea (most common in children)
Antiviral drugs are available and can help prevent flu infections from becoming more serious. Treatments work best if started soon after symptoms begin. If you feel sick, contact your doctor right away to see if you need treatment with a prescription antiviral drug. Treatment with a prescription antiviral drug is especially important for hospitalized patients, people with severe illness, and those who are at higher risk of serious flu illness based on their age or health.
A respiratory virus surveillance summary that includes information on COVID-19, RSV and flu-related deaths and activity is posted every Wednesday at https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/dashboard/respiratory-virus-surveillance.