RALEIGH — The flu season that came early this year is now officially a major one, with 12 deaths reported across the state and flu activity at the highest levels in more than a decade.
It is very unusual for us to see this many deaths so early in the flu season, said State Health Director Laura Gerald in a statement Friday. This years vaccine is well-matched to the strains of flu we are seeing in North Carolina so we strongly recommend that anyone over 6 months old be vaccinated.
Outbreaks have been reported in schools and long-term care facilities across the state. Although everyone is at risk, flu can be especially dangerous for those at high risk of complications, including pregnant women, people with chronic diseases, very young children and the elderly.
Nine of those who has succumbed to the effects of the illness so far were above the age of 64, and all were older than 24.
In recent years, it has been unusual for even the first flu death of the season to come this early, according to state data.
Because it takes about two weeks for immunity to develop after vaccination, getting an immunization between now and the start of the New Year should provide protection when individuals go back to work or school.
Flu vaccine is the safest and most effective way to protect against flu and is recommended for anyone over 6 months old, state officials say.
In addition to vaccination, state health officials recommend additional precautions to avoid spreading cold and flu to others:
• Stay home when you are sick
• Wash your hands regularly with soap and water
• Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then discard the tissue promptly
State-supplied flu vaccine is available at no charge from most local health departments and many private providers. Contact your local health department or find a flu vaccine clinic near you by visiting www.flu.nc.gov.