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18 new flu deaths reported in North Carolina, bringing the total statewide number this season to 253

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(CNN)

Eighteen new flu deaths were reported in North Carolina last week, bringing the total statewide number this season to 253.

The 18 newest cases were reported from Feb. 18 to Feb. 22, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. The season started on October 1.

The World Health Organization estimates the annual epidemic results in about 3 to 5 million cases of severe illness globally and 290,000 to 650,000 deaths.

This year’s flu season ranks among the most severe in recent years.

Flu is a contagious, viral illness that causes mild to severe symptoms that can sometimes lead to death.

Those worried about the flu or feel that might be at risk, should speak with their doctor about getting the flu shot or other preventative measures.

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