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Flu expert discusses deadly season across North Carolina


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- This winter has been a particularly tough flu season. Last week eight people in North Carolina died from complications associated with the flu, including one person in Pender County.

"The flu is just not the common cold," NHRMC epidemiologist Dr. Paul Kamitsuka said. "It kills."

And it has killed 74 people in North Carolina so far this flu season, which started in the fall. Of those deaths, Kamitsuka said six have been at New Hanover Regional Medical Center.

"That's why we emphasize so strongly the importance of getting vaccinated," he said.

Kamitsuka says five of those six people were not vaccinated. He says in this state, it's predominately middle aged folks getting sick, and obesity is also a risk factor.

According to the NC Department of Health and Human Services, the 25 to 49 age group has the highest number of deaths with 30 people.

"It is not due to the flu directly," Dr. Kamitsuka said. "It is more due to worsening of underlining conditions like heart and lung conditions."

Conditions also include bacterial pneumonia, ear or sinus infections and dehydration.

"Convince everyone around you to get vaccinated, because if most of us are vaccinated than the flu will stop dead in its tracks," Kamitsuka said.

The doctor says each flu season varies, but last year cases peaked early. He says it is too soon to tell what this year's trend is.

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