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North Carolina reports state’s first flu-related death of the season

Scientists worldwide are seeking improved and universal flu vaccines.

RALEIGH, N.C. — A North Carolinian has died of the flu in what the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is calling the first flu death of the 2018-2019 season.

The NCDHHS Division of Public Health announced the death on Thursday. The DPH will not release any identifying information regarding the person.

“We are very saddened by this death and send condolences to the loved ones of this person,” said State Epidemiologist Zack Moore in a news release. “Flu is always a serious illness, and in some cases can lead to complications and result in death, which is why we strongly encourage people to get vaccinated early and annually.”

Three flu-related deaths were reported this fall.

Scarlett VanStory Levinson, a 29-year-old from Raleigh, died from “an apparent cardiac event following complications from the flu” on Oct. 2.

The Buncombe County Medical Director said an elderly person died that same week from the flu.

In addition, Wake County school board member Kathy Hartenstine passed away from complications from the flu in September.

The current flu season spans Sept. 30, 2018, through May 18, 2019.

The 2017-2018 flu season left 391 people dead in North Carolina.

That season held the highest death toll of any one flu season since 2009. Before then agencies were not required to report flu deaths.

Out of the 391 deaths, 290 were 65-years-old or older.

Seven were younger than 18-years-old.

The Center for Disease Control recommends that everyone over 6 months of age get vaccinated with a licensed, age-appropriate vaccine.

The DPH reports vaccines can make flu symptoms milder and reduce the risk of serious outcomes.

This is especially important for people over 65-years-old, under 5-years-old, pregnent women and people with medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

Vaccinations are available at hospitals, pharmacies, private medical offices, some federally qualified health care centers and local health departments.

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