Seventeen more people died from complications of the flu in North Carolina last week, even as the prevalence of the viral illness declined, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.
The death toll from flu since the season started in early October has reached 83 in North Carolina, including five children under 18. The majority of those deaths, 58, occurred during the four weeks ending March 4.
The number of deaths this year has exceeded the 59 who died all of last year’s flu season, but is far short of the 218 who died during the 2014-2015 flu season, according to the state.
Most of this season’s deaths, 52, have occurred among people 65 or older, a reflection that the most common strain of the virus this season – Influenza A H3N2 – tends to affect older people more severely.
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The prevalence of flu had been on the rise in North Carolina since the middle of January, but declined markedly last week, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. A survey of clinics, hospitals and health departments found that a little more than 4 percent of visits were for patients with flu-like illnesses, down from more than 7 percent the week before.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in February that this year’s flu vaccine protects about half the people who receive it – better than in some years but not as good as in others.