Four new flu deaths were reported last week in North Carolina, bringing the total number of influenza-related deaths to 96 this flu season, according to data released Thursday by the state Department of Health and Human Services.
In comparison, 59 people in total died of the flu during the 2012-2013 season.
Pam McCall, Director of Personal Health Services for the Orange County Health Department, said that though flu season is almost over, it is still important to be on alert.
“Last year, we had deaths as late as May 11, so it could continue to happen on into late April or early May. We have been getting some reports locally of clusters of influenza-like illness in congregate settings,” McCall said.
Typical seasonal flus tend to impact very young children with underdeveloped immune systems or the elderly who have weakened immune systems.
But for the 2013-2014 flu season, 33 of the total number of deaths have occurred among adults aged 25 to 49, followed by people aged 50 to 64, with 32 deaths.
“What is dramatic, too, are the ages of the people affected. Normally we expect the deaths to occur in elderly people, sixty-five and older, but that has been different this year, and it has younger people,” McCall said. “That is something that has not been expected and that really is a dramatic difference from what has happened in the recent past.”
Twenty-five people aged 65 or older have died from the flu.
The virus has also has killed three children under the age of four, including one infant, and two children between ages 5 and 17.
The best way to prevent contracting the flu is aggressive hand washing and getting the flu vaccine.
The Center for Disease Control recommends that people six months and older get vaccinated for the flu.