The total of flu-related deaths has reached 10 in North Carolina for the 2018-19 season, state health officials reported Thursday.
There was one victim each in the 25-to-49 age group and age 65 and older. One individual died during the week that ended Dec. 22, while the other died during the week that ended Dec. 15.
The flu season officially began Oct. 1 and typically runs through March 31, although it has lingered several weeks at times.
The N.C. Division of Public Health has said it will not release victims’ hometown, county, age and gender for privacy reasons.
To date, eight of the victims were ages 65 and older, while two were in the 25-to-49 age group.
The death rate is at the mid-range of the scale for this time frame compared with the previous five flu seasons.
For the same time period, there were 15 deaths in the 2017-18 flu season, four deaths in 2016-17, no deaths in 2015-16, 11 deaths in 2014-15 and 12 deaths in 2013-14.
Besides the elderly, other vulnerable groups are children younger than 5, pregnant women and those with pre-existing medical conditions. Added this year is the category of residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
The division reported the number of flu-like cases is increasing steadily, reaching 1,826 last week or about 2 percent of individuals reporting to healthcare providers tracking the flu.
Part of the division's strategy for measuring the presence of the flu is tracking positive test results for selected respiratory viruses on a weekly basis by public health epidemiologists located in seven of the largest hospital networks across the state.
From those test result, the A (subtype unknown) flu virus has been the dominant form to date with 225 of the 304 confirmed positive cases, followed by 52 cases of A(H1), 18 of A/HE and nine of B.
Pardee Hospital in Hendersonville is the only hospital in North Carolina during the current flu season that has instituted visitor restrictions for children 12 and under.
The 2017-18 flu season was the deadliest in modern-day North Carolina history, with 391 deaths.
The totals were broken down as: 290 deaths among people 65 or older; 71 among ages 50 to 64; 19 among ages 25 to 49; six among ages 5 to 17; four among ages 18 to 24; and one child under 4.
Dr. Christopher Ohl, an infectious diseases expert at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, said in November that “it’s always hard to predict in advance how severe a flu season will be.”
“We do not have any indications that this flu season will be more severe than normal.”
Flu vaccines typically are available in doctor’s offices, health-care clinics, county health departments, pharmacies and college health centers, as well as from many employers and schools. Individuals can use the FluFinder at www.flu.nc.gov to find a clinic near them.
The shots typically are free for individuals with private insurance and Medicare and Medicaid recipients.