Forsyth woman dies from complications from flu

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Flu shot (Stock photo)

FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. — A Forsyth County resident has died from complications related to influenza, the first local fatality in the 2013-14 flu season, the Forsyth County Health Department said today.

Marlon Hunter, the county’s health director, said the department was notified that middle-age woman died Thursday.

As in the case with other flu-related deaths, the woman’s identity was not revealed for privacy reasons.

There have been at least nine deaths related to the flu in the Triad, including six in Guilford County and one each in Alamance and Randolph counties.

There have been at least 35 North Carolinians who have died from flu-related complications, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. DHHS updates its data on Wednesdays, based on the previous week’s death totals.

As has been the standard practice, DHHS officials have not disclosed the counties in which victims lived; however, county health officials typically are informing the public when a flu-related death has occurred.

“Reported flu cases and flu deaths have occurred in all regions of the state, so it is very widespread,” DHHS spokeswoman Kirsti Clifford said.

The flu season typically runs from Oct. 1 through March 31, hitting its peak in January and February. The HIN1 strain, or swine flu, has made up the bulk of the cases verified by the State Laboratory of Public Health.

Hunter said the Forsyth health department is providing free flu shots from 8:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesday; from 8:30 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. on Thursdays; and from 8:30-11:45 a.m. on Fridays.

With the latest totals, two victims were younger than age 5, while 15 were ages 25 to 49, 10 were 50 to 64 and eight were 65 or older. Clifford said at least two of the victims had received a flu shot.

State health officials say that most of the victims had some kind of health condition that made them more vulnerable to the flu, which is typical in flu-related deaths.

Those conditions can include heart disease, asthma or a respiratory illness, diabetes, immune-system problems, obesity and pregnancy. Children under age 2 also are considered at a higher risk for the flu.

“More than 50 percent of North Carolina’s total population has some form of chronic disease,” Robin Cummings, the state’s health director, said in a statement.

Forsyth Medical Center said today it still has not imposed visitor restrictions related to the flu. Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center also has not put visitor restrictions in place. Officials from the hospitals say they are evaluating influenza rates on a daily basis.

Triad hospitals that have flu-related visitor restrictions include High Point Regional Hospital; Cone Health’s hospitals in Burlington (Alamance Regional), Greensboro (Moses Cone and Wesley Long) and Reidsville (Annie Penn); and Northern Hospital of Surry County in Mount Airy.

All visitor restrictions request that no routine hospital visits be made by anyone age 18 and younger. Restrictions typically affect young people because children often are contagious before they show signs of the flu. Restricted areas include patient rooms, hospital lobbies, waiting areas and classrooms.

The hospitals are asking adults to voluntarily restrict their visitation if they are experiencing such symptoms as a runny nose, sore throat, fever and cough.

Visitor restriction exceptions tend to be made for serious emergencies or end-of-life situations. The policy also tends not to apply to patients under 18 who have a scheduled procedure or need emergency care or hospitalization.