STATE: NCDHHS announces first flu deaths of season

RALEIGH — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services today announced the first two reported flu-related deaths of the 2023-24 flu season. Two adults in the western part of the state died due to complications of influenza during the third and fourth weeks of October. One person had tested positive for both influenza and COVID-19. To protect the privacy of both families, additional information will not be released.

“We know both flu and COVID-19 can lead to severe complications and even death in some cases,” said State Epidemiologist Zack Moore, M.D., MPH. “As flu season ramps up and COVID-19 is still circulating, it is very important for people to get their annual vaccines, practice good hand hygiene and stay home when sick.”

Influenza, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are all circulating now and are expected to increase over the coming months. Vaccinations are the best way to prevent serious illness, hospitalization, and death from these infections. Vaccinations are especially important for those at higher risk of severe viral respiratory disease, including people 65 years and older, children younger than 5, pregnant women, those with a weakened immune system and those with certain medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all people aged 6 months and older receive a fall COVID-19 vaccine and seasonal flu vaccineRSV vaccinations are also available to protect older adults and for pregnant women during weeks 32 through 36 of pregnancy to protect infants. Parents should talk with their health care provider about other options to protect infants from severe RSV disease.

Flu and COVID-19 vaccinations are available at pharmacies, private medical offices, some federally qualified health care centers and local health departments. To find flu or COVID-19 vaccines near you, visit https://www.vaccines.gov/.

In addition to vaccines, the following precautions should be taken to protect against the spread of respiratory viruses:

  • Regularly clean your hands with hand sanitizer or soap and water to prevent the spread of viruses to others
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then discard the tissue promptly
  • Stay home when sick, except to seek medical care or testing, and take steps to avoid spreading infection to others in your home, including:
    • Staying in a separate room from other household members, if possible
    • Using a separate bathroom, if possible
    • Avoiding contact with other members of the household and pets
    • Not sharing personal household items, like cups, towels and utensils
    • Wearing a mask when around other people

Detailed information about actions you can take to protect yourself and others can be found here.

You cannot tell the difference between flu and COVID-19 by the symptoms alone. Early testing and treatment with an antiviral drug can help prevent flu and COVID-19 infections from becoming more serious. Treatment is especially important for those who are at high risk of serious complications based on their age or medical conditions.

More information about how to access testing and treatment for COVID-19 can be found on the NCDHHS COVID-19 website.