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Originally published: 2013-12-03 12:25:39
Last modified: 2013-12-03 12:26:24

North Carolina sees first flu deaths

by Staff Reports

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday the state's first three adult deaths linked to the seasonal flu.

The patients were from eastern North Carolina, the Triad region and the Charlotte area, according to DHHS. All three patients were middle-aged adults who were at increased risk for complications due to underlying medical conditions. 

All died during the past two weeks after testing positive for Influenza A, one of the main types of flu responsible for seasonal flu epidemics each year.
 
"We extend our deepest sympathy to all of the families on their loss," said Acting State Health Director Dr. Robin Gary Cummings. "We hope that these tragic cases will help alert other people to the risks associated with contracting flu."
 
According to public health officials, cases of flu in the state have been relatively low so far this season but are beginning to trend upward. Flu season typically peaks during January and February.

Complications from flu can be particularly dangerous for high risk groups including infants under 2, pregnant women and people with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease or immune system problems.
 
"Anyone in a high-risk group who gets the flu should see a doctor right away so they can receive treatment with an antiviral drug," Cummings said. "Early treatment with an antiviral drug can mean the difference between a mild illness and a very serious illness."
 
Flu vaccination is the most effective treatment against the flu. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against influenza virus infection.  Flu vaccine is widely available and protects against the strains of flu circulating this year, including H1N1. Flu vaccine is available in nasal spray and shot form.
 
In addition to vaccination, DHHS encourages everyone to use personal precautions to protect against the spread of flu and other viruses:

-- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then discard the tissue promptly.
-- Wash hands frequently, preferably with soap and water or an approved hand sanitizer.
-- Stay home when you are sick until you are fever free for at least 24 hours.

For more information on flu and to find out where you can get a flu vaccination in your community, visit http://www.flu.nc.gov.