RALEIGH, NC (WWAY) -- The NC Department of Health and Human Services says three people have died after being infected with seasonal influenza.
The patients were from Eastern North Carolina, the Triad region and the Charlotte area. All three patients were middle-aged adults who were at increased risk for complications due to underlying medical conditions. All died during the past two weeks after testing positive for Influenza A, one of the main types of flu responsible for seasonal flu epidemics each year.
"We extend our deepest sympathy to all of the families on their loss," said Acting State Health Director Robin Gary Cummings, MD. "We hope that these tragic cases will help alert other people to the risks associated with contracting flu."
Public health officials say cases of flu in North Carolina have been relatively low so far this season, but are beginning to trend upward. Flu season typically peaks during January and February. Complications from flu can be particularly dangerous for high risk groups including infants under 2, pregnant women, and people with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, or immune system problems.
"Anyone in a high risk group who gets the flu should see a doctor right away so they can receive treatment with an antiviral drug," Cummings said. "Early treatment with an antiviral drug can mean the difference between a mild illness and a very serious illness."
Flu vaccination is the most effective treatment against the flu. If you have not gotten your flu vaccine yet this season, you should get one now. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against influenza virus infection. Flu vaccine is widely available and protects against the strains of flu circulating this year, including H1N1. Flu vaccine is available in nasal spray and shot form.
In addition to vaccination, DHHS encourages everyone to use personal precautions to protect against the spread of flu and other viruses:
Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then discard the tissue promptly.
Wash hands frequently, preferably with soap and water or an approved hand sanitizer.
Stay home when you are sick until you are fever free for at least 24 hours.
For more information on flu and to find out where you can get a flu vaccination in your community, visit www.flu.nc.gov.