RALEIGH — The flu season in North Carolina may have peaked, but it claimed 10 more lives last week, according to numbers released Thursday by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
That brought the season’s toll to 56, most of them the young and middle-aged adults who are most vulnerable to the dominant strain this year, H1N1. It was the second-worst week for deaths, just one fewer than the previous week’s total.
The number of cases of illnesses that appear to be flu showing up in the state’s two main surveillance networks of health care providers fell, possibly signally that the season was beginning to taper.
The victims include three children under the age of 17, and 12 people age 65 and above.
Most of those who have died had some pre-existing condition that made them at least somewhat more vulnerable to the effects of flu, including diabetes, obesity and chronic respiratory illness, state health officials have said.
Even if it has peaked, the flu season could last several weeks longer, and health care experts say that it’s still a good idea for those who haven’t been vaccinated to do so, particularly if they have a condition that could make them vulnerable to serious complications from flu. Those risk factors include heart disease, diabetes, respiratory illnesses such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, immune system problems, obesity and pregnancy.
Also, those who get flu can have a doctor treat it with prescription antiviral drugs, which can reduce the severity of the illness. That can be crucial for those at high risk of severe complications from a case of flu.