A second child in North Carolina has died from a flu-related illness during the 2017-18 flu season, state health officials said Thursday.
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported seven deaths for the week that ended Dec. 30.
There have been 20 overall for the season, which includes an additional death linked to a previous week.
The season officially began Oct. 1 and lasts through March 31, although some seasons begin early and can linger into late April to mid-May.
There also four deaths in the elderly category, along with three from ages 50 to 64.
Overall for the season, there have been 10 elderly deaths, six from ages 50 to 64, two from ages 25 to 49 and two from ages five to 17.
There has not been a reported flu-related death in the Triad and Northwest North Carolina. Some county health directors decline to confirm flu-related deaths, per DHHS direction.
The News & Observer reported last week there was a flu-related death in Johnston and Orange counties, both confirmed by county health officials.
By comparison, the 2016-17 season had 219 confirmed deaths related to the flu. That represented the highest level of flu-related deaths since DHHS began providing victim totals in 2008.
Nationally, flu season has arrived stronger than projected, according to federal health officials. The predominant strain picked up in lab tests so far is a strain of influenza A known as H3N2.
The CDC is projecting viruses H1N1, H3N2, B/Victoria lineage and a second potential lineage of B viruses.
Local and state health-care officials encourage individuals to get their flu shots early since it typically takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against flu.
Besides the elderly, other vulnerable population groups are children under 5, pregnant women and those with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease.
None of the Triad's four main hospitals have implemented visitor restrictions, particularly for children, for the current season.
In recent years, Forsyth and Wake Forest Baptist medical centers, Cone Hospital and High Point Regional have put in visitor restrictions at the same time, such as Feb. 24 to April 18 for the 2016-17 season.
Novant said in a statement that "while we constantly monitor the spread of influenza at our hospitals, as well as in the communities we serve, at this time we do not feel that we have reached the threshold where visitor restrictions are necessary."
"Visitation is important for our patients and their healing. However, we always encourage members of the public to refrain from visiting if they are sick or believe they are coming down with an illness. This is true at any time of year, not just during flu season."
Melissa Morgan, a registered nurse and director of infection prevention at Cone Health, said the system "continues seeing more flu cases."
"Our last check puts it in the moderate category. While flu cases are increasing, they have not reached the point where we impose visitor restrictions.
"However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the level of flu in our community rises to the point where that will occur," Morgan said.