Wake County reports first flu death of season as statewide total climbs

Public health officials urge flu vaccinations to prevent flu deaths and to ameliorate flu symptoms for those who do get sick.
Public health officials urge flu vaccinations to prevent flu deaths and to ameliorate flu symptoms for those who do get sick. AP

Wake County reported its first flu-related death of the 2017-18 flu season as the statewide total climbed to 20 flu-related deaths since Oct. 1.

State health officials updated the weekly total Thursday, reporting seven new deaths statewide between Dec. 24 and Dec. 30, including that of a child – the second pediatric death this flu this season. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services does not disclose the gender, county or other particulars of flu deaths to protect patient privacy.

The Wake County Health Department confirmed that one of the deaths involved a resident of the county. In the 2016-17 flu season, Wake County reported 22 deaths.

Officials in Durham, Johnston and Orange counties said they have had no flu-related deaths in the past week. Chatham County does not disclose flu death totals as a matter of policy.

North Carolina reported 219 flu deaths in the 2016-17 flu season, mostly among the elderly. In the 2015-16 flu season, the state reported 59 flu-related deaths, most affecting people age 50 through 64.

The flu season begins Oct. 1 and runs through May. The greatest number of the flu-related deaths so far have been among people aged 65 years and older.

During the week ending Dec. 30, North Carolina also hit a new peak for the total of people admitted to hospitals for influenza and other respiratory illnesses. Nearly 320 people were admitted statewide, about double the totals seen at the beginning of the flu season in October and early November. Most of those admitted in the last week of reported data were aged 65 years and older.

People most vulnerable to flu complications are infants, children up to age 5, and people 65 and older, as well as pregnant women. Flu complications can include pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections; a case of the flu can also exacerbate asthma and congestive heart disease.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urge flu vaccinations for everyone 6 months and older, with rare exceptions. People aged 65 and above are urged to get a high dose of the flu vaccine. The CDC recommends injections for children; it no longer recommends the flu mist for children because of lower effectiveness.

John Murawski: 919-829-8932, @johnmurawski