Health Care

Fifth NC resident of the season succumbs to flu

Public health officials stress the importance of vaccinations to protect the health of people with compromised immune systems. Duke pulmonology patient Lee Welch of Raleigh, NC, gets a flu shot from Duke RN Anita Gregory in the Duke Pulmonology clinic at Duke Hospital South Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013.
Public health officials stress the importance of vaccinations to protect the health of people with compromised immune systems. Duke pulmonology patient Lee Welch of Raleigh, NC, gets a flu shot from Duke RN Anita Gregory in the Duke Pulmonology clinic at Duke Hospital South Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013. hlynch@newsobserver.com

The state Department of Health and Human Services announced the fifth flu-related death of the season Thursday.

The death occurred last week, and the victim was between 50 and 64 years old. The previous flu-related deaths included two children and an elderly patient.

The state's weekly update Thursday on the flu season also showed continued upswing in the number of patients appearing in clinics, emergency rooms and doctors' offices exhibiting flu symptoms.

Nearly all the positive flu tests in North Carolina so far have found the strain known as H3N2, which is supposed to be covered by this year's version of the flu vaccine. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though, has warned that a mutation is making the vaccine less effective.

Public health official are still urging people to get the vaccination, because it is effective in many cases and may reduce the severity of the illness even if someone contracts the virus.

The H3N2 strain that is prevalent this year is considered unusually dangerous. The three deadliest flu seasons in the last 10 years involved H3N2.

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