Raleigh, N.C. — Five more people died of the flu in North Carolina last week, bringing the total so far this season to 63, authorities said Thursday.
Thirty-seven of the deaths were people age 65 or older, while 15 were ages 50 to 64 and 10 were ages 25 to 49. One pediatric patient between the ages of 5 and 17 also died.
Meanwhile, the number of people statewide who tested positive for the flu spiked at 1,054 last week. That was more than 200 positive test more than the previous high this season, which was in the week ended Jan. 4.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu was “widespread” in just about every state as January came to an end.
The CDC estimates that, so far this season, there have been at least 19 million flu illnesses, 180,000 hospitalizations and 10,000 deaths from flu nationwide.
The CDC recommends flu vaccinations for everyone 6 months of age and older.
For those who have been diagnosed with the flu, CDC guidelines say patients should:
- Stay home when sick until fever-free for at least 24 hours.
- Wash hands frequently, preferably with soap and water.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then discard the tissue promptly.
Physicians say the symptoms of flu are similar to those of the new coronavirus strain that started as an outbreak in China but has rattled people worldwide.
The U.S. has only 12 confirmed cases of coronavirus and no deaths so far. But airlines have canceled flights to China, surgical face masks are in short supply and Americans who evacuated from China are being quarantined at a military base in California for two weeks.
“In light of the rapidly evolving situation with a new virus, North Carolina is taking a proactive approach to protect the health and well-being of recent travelers from North Carolina and our communities,” State Health Director and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson said in a statement. “Fortunately, we have not had any cases of novel coronavirus in North Carolina so far, but we are continually monitoring and will make changes to our response as needed.”
The CDC will notify the state Department of Health and Human Services about travelers who have been screened for coronavirus and permitted to continue to North Carolina as their final destination, Tilson said. That list will be shared with local health departments, who will contact travelers and provide them with written public health guidance for people under monitoring.