ORANGE COUNTY – Eleven people have died from flu-related complications last week in North Carolina, the highest weekly total so far this flu season, according to figures released Thursday from the State Department of Health and Human Services.

Forty-four people in the State have died from influenza since flu season began in October of last year.

Pam McCall, Director of Personal Health Services for the Orange County Health Department, said peak flu season is upon us.

“This does correlate with what it was like last year. This past week in 2013 also registered the highest number of flu deaths [so far for the 2012-2013 flu season].”

The number of cases typically increases in January and February, though she added that in 2013, there were flu deaths reported as late as May.

McCall added that the number of deaths is not unusual at this stage of the flu season.

“Last year at this time, there were 41 total deaths reported, and right now, we are at 44 so it is a little higher. This flu season, the difference is the age ranges [who are being affected]. Last year, the older adults made up a majority of the flu deaths. This year, it is in that 25-64 age range.”

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, 19 of the total number of deaths have occurred among adults aged 25 to 49, followed by people aged 50 to 64, with 14 deaths.

Some good news is that the number of new flu cases reported by UNC Hospitals has dropped significantly.

For the week of January 19 through January 25, they were 41 lab-confirmed influenza cases compared to 82 the preceding week.

“That too seems to indicate that we have reached the peak of the season so far since we have had a dramatic drop at UNC Hospitals, at least in the number of cases. It does look like the numbers are going down overall in the State,” she said.

It is not too late for people to get their annual flu shot, but McCall said it does take two weeks after inoculation for the antibodies to develop in your body and become effective. The Center for Disease Control recommends that people six months and older get vaccinated for the flu.

McCall said if you do come down with the flu, the antiviral medication TAMIFLU® can reduce the severity and duration of symptoms.

The flu vaccine is offered at the Orange County Health Department. To find other locations where the vaccine is administered, click here.