By Tim Gardner
An additional eight North Carolinians have died during the current flu season, raising the total to 41, the N.C. Division of Public Health has reported.
Six deaths were reported for the week that ended Jan. 18, along with two deaths from previous weeks. Of those deaths, four were for people ages 25 to 49; three were those 65 and older, and one was 50 to 64.
It was the largest weekly victim total to date during the 2019-2020 flu season for the 25-to-49 age group.
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services cautions the weekly report count does not represent all flu-associated deaths in the state because many go undiagnosed or unreported.
The division does not release a victim’s hometown, county, age or gender to the public due to legal privacy reasons.
Of the 41 who have died in this season to date, 24 were 65 or older; eight were 50 to 64; eight were 25 to 49 and one was 5 to 17.
In North Carolina, there have been 2,145 confirmed cases of influenza B, compared with 1,225 influenza A, 433 of 2009 A(H1N1) and 26 of A(H3).
Influenza A is typically more severe, particularly among older adults or people with underlying medical problems, while influenza B tends to be less severe and usually affects children more than adults.
According to Vicki Stevens, Director of Marketing at the Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, based in Boone, the hospital system is currently releasing its latest flu statistics on a monthly basis. At last report, 33 patients were treated with the flu at the Watauga Medical Center in Boone and Cannon Memorial Hospital in Linville since Oct. 1, 2019 to December 31, 2019. The same last released statistics indicate that since January 1, 2020 the number of flu cases locally have dramatically increased at Watauga Medical Center and Cannon Memorial Hospital with 29 cases of the flu and 85 cases in the ARHS’s outpatient facilities.
So far, the Appalachian Regional Healthcare System has not implemented a Visitor Restriction Policy.
Although cases of, and deaths because of the flu in the state, North Carolina has not been listed among the 19 states, including Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, considered as reporting very high levels of flu.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman has said one reason why the flu season has been more virulent this time is because it’s the first time since 1992-1993 that influenza B has been identified more often than influenza A nationally.
At this time of year, respiratory illnesses in people in North Carolina are most likely due to infection with influenza or viruses that cause the common cold. People should take precautions to protect themselves from these infections, including washing your hands, avoiding touching your face and making sure you have gotten your annual flu shot.
The North Carolina Division of Public Health also reported that a patient who was being tested for the novel (new) 2019 coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is not infected with the virus. Negative results were received this evening from testing performed at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We are pleased that test results were negative and that the patient remains in good health,” said Dr. Zack Moore, state epidemiologist. “We are working with CDC and local partners to be sure we are prepared to detect and respond to any possible cases that might occur in North Carolina in the future.”
Coronavirus infections initially were diagnosed in Wuhan City, China, and have since been reported in travelers from that city to other locations in China and other countries including the United States. No cases have been identified in North Carolina.
Travelers to China who develop a fever or respiratory symptoms, including cough and difficulty breathing, within two weeks of leaving should contact their doctor immediately. They should call ahead before going to the clinic, urgent care or emergency room so appropriate steps can be taken to avoid exposing others to the potentially deadly disease.
For more information about 2019 novel coronavirus, visit CDC’s website at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/index.html.