RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina officials have confirmed eight more flu-related deaths, bringing the total number in the state up to 21 this season.
Five were from the first week of the year and three from previous weeks, according to Kirsti Clifford with the Department of Health and Human Services.
Officials said 19 of the 21 deaths have been in young and middle-aged adults, most of whom had underlying medical conditions. Only two have been reported in people over 65.
Flu activity has been widespread in North Carolina since mid-December. High levels of flu activity are expected to continue over the coming weeks, as flu season typically peaks during January and February.
“Reported flu cases and flu deaths have occurred in all regions of the state, so it is very widespread,” said state health spokeswoman Kirsti Clifford.
Flu vaccine is widely available and protects against the strains of flu circulating this year, including H1N1, the most common flu strain so far this year.
Authorities said the vaccination is the best protection against the flu especially for pregnant women, obese people and those with medical conditions like heart or lung disease.
There have been at least four flu deaths in Guilford County, with Moses Cone Hospital in Greensboro seeing at least two.
Randolph Hospital had stopped allowing more than two visitors to see patients at one time. An otherwise healthy Randolph County resident died over the weekend from the flu.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone over six months to get a flu shot.
It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against flu.
Health officials recommend taking additional precautions against illness, including washing your hands often with soap and water, and staying away from others who may have the flu.
States reporting widespread seasonal flu activity jumped from 10 to 25 last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For more information on flu prevention and treatment, visit www.flu.nc.gov.