The Triangle had its first flu-related deaths of the season this month: a Johnston County resident and a patient at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill.
State health officials also reported Thursday that the first child died from the flu this season last week. The child lived in the central part of North Carolina, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.
The state health agency did not release further information, in order to protect the family’s privacy.
“We extend our deepest sympathies to the child’s family,” state Epidemiologist Dr. Zack Moore said in a statement. “If anything positive comes from this tragic loss, we hope it will be that people understand that flu is a serious illness. Flu vaccination is the most effective protection against flu, and it’s still not too late to get a flu shot.”
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It is unknown whether the Johnson County resident is the same person who died at UNC Hospitals, or if they were two separate cases. The state Division of Public Health reported three people died from the flu last week, but did say where they were from.
Orange and Johnston county officials confirmed the deaths.
The UNC patient received a flu vaccine in October but had a severely compromised immune system, an Orange County spokeswoman said. The patient was between the ages of 25 and 49, according to a UNC Health Care weekly respiratory virus report.
Statewide, 12 people have died from flu-related illness so far this season, according to the state Division of Public Health, including the child. Six of the deaths were of people 65 and older.
Nine pediatric flu deaths have been reported in other states as of Dec. 16, according to the state. Up to half of children who die from the flu have no known medical condition that put them at higher risk, the state health agency says.
The Division of Public Health reports statewide flu-related deaths, but not by county, every week based on information submitted by county health officials.
North Carolina reported 219 flu-related deaths during the 2016-17 season, which runs from October through May.