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First flu-related death reported in North Carolina in 2021-22 flu season

Currently, North Carolina is seeing more flu activity than at any time since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020.
Currently, North Carolina is seeing more flu activity than at any time since the COVID-19...
Currently, North Carolina is seeing more flu activity than at any time since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020.(WLBT)
Published: Dec. 14, 2021 at 12:09 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Health leaders have reported the first flu-related death in North Carolina in the 2021-22 flu season.

Officials say an adult in the western part of the state died due to complications of the flue during the second week of December. The person tested positive for the flu and negative for COVID-19.

The person’s hometown, county, age and gender will not be released to protect the privacy of the family.

“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 the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever for people to get a flu vaccine this year, as well as a COVID-19 vaccination or booster if they have not already done so.”  

While flu cases and deaths were historically low during the 2020-2021 flu season, the number of flu deaths reported in North Carolina ranged from 186–391 during the five prior seasons.

Currently, North Carolina is seeing more flu activity than at any time since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020.  

“Unfortunately, COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the midst of the flu season, creating even more demand of our state’s hospital beds,” said NCDHHS Chief Deputy Secretary for Health Kody H. Kinsley. “It is important to get a COVID-19 vaccine and flu shot as soon as possible, and get your booster when you become eligible, to protect yourself and your family and to preserve hospital bed capacity for emergencies.”

The CDC recommends flu vaccination every year for everyone 6 months and older. 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 vaccinefinder.org/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, COVID-19 and other viruses:

  • Continue to 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 COVID-19 and flu.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then discard the tissue promptly.
  • Stay home when sick, except to seek medical care or testing and take steps to avoid spreading infection to others in your home, including:
    • Staying in a separate room from other household members, if possible
    • Using a separate bathroom, if possible
    • Avoiding contact with other members of the household and pets
    • Not sharing personal household items, like cups, towels and utensils
    • Wearing a mask when around other people, if you are able to

Individuals who feel ill should call ahead before going to a doctor’s office, local health department or urgent care to avoid exposing others.

COVID-19 and flu symptoms are similar, so consult with a doctor about getting tested for flu and/or COVID-19.

Flu symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Cough and/or sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Headaches and/or body aches
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea (most common in children)

A combined COVID-19 and influenza surveillance summary that includes information on flu-related deaths and activity is posted every Thursday at covid19.ncdhhs.gov/dashboard/cli-surveillance.

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