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Flu Activity Remains High Statewide

For release: Immediate    Feb. 17, 2011
Contact: Julie Henry, 919-707-5053

RALEIGH — Three more flu-associated deaths during the past week are a reminder that flu activity remains widespread in North Carolina, and the N.C. Division of Public Health is encouraging individuals to continue taking precautions to protect themselves from illness. Since late December, the state has recorded 14 deaths from flu, including six among children.

As in past years, the vast majority of deaths this year have been in individuals who were not vaccinated. Historically, flu vaccines have been 70 to 90 percent effective against strains that are well matched to the vaccine. More than 95 percent of strains circulating this year are well matched to the vaccine.

“It is not too late for a flu vaccination to be effective, and there is still plenty of vaccine available,” State Health Director Jeff Engel said. “You also can prevent the spread of flu through good hand washing and covering your coughs and sneezes. Most importantly, people should stay home from work or school while they are ill.”

According to state influenza surveillance, visits to hospital emergency departments due to flu increased for the fifth week in a row, while outpatient visits declined slightly. A number of hospitals across the state have limited visitors in response to flu concerns. Health officials remain cautious about predicting the end of this year’s flu season.

“In typical years, we see flu activity through the month of March and often into April, so we still want folks to be protected,” Engel said.

Individuals with underlying health issues, like heart disease, diabetes and respiratory conditions, are most at risk for complications from flu. State health officials are urging health care providers to use antiviral medications as soon as possible in high risk or hospitalized patients who have suspected or confirmed cases of flu.

Look for the most recent flu Facts and Figures at www.flu.nc.gov