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State Health Officials Report Two Flu-Related Deaths, Encourage Vaccination

RALEIGH, N.C. - The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services today announced the state’s first flu-related deaths of the 2017-18 season after two adults died of complications from influenza infection from mid-to-late October. One of the deaths occurred in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, and the other occurred in the eastern region of the state.
To protect the privacy of the families, neither person's hometown, county, age or gender will be released.
"We offer our deepest sympathies to the families,” said State Epidemiologist Zack Moore, M.D., MPH. “These personal losses are also a reminder for all of us that flu can be a serious illness. We strongly encourage people to protect themselves by getting a flu shot this season if they haven’t already.” Flu shots are available at hospitals, pharmacies, private medical offices, some federally qualified health care centers and local health departments. The Flu Vaccine Finder at http://flu.nc.gov can help people find flu clinics near them.
Flu infections are most common from late fall to early spring in North Carolina, with peak activity usually occurring in January or February. The CDC recommends yearly vaccination against the flu for everyone 6 months and older. For the second year in a row, the CDC is recommending the injectable vaccine instead of the nasal spray because of concerns about the nasal spray’s effectiveness.
According to studies cited by the CDC, vaccination against the flu can:
• Protect people who are at greater risk of becoming seriously ill from flu, like older adults, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions (including obesity) and young children
• Make illness milder and reduce the risk of more serious outcomes
• Protect pregnant women and their developing babies
People should take the following precautions to protect against the spread of flu and other viruses:
• 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
The N.C. Division of Public Health posts updates on flu surveillance data every Thursday during flu season at http://flu.nc.gov
FAQs
1. What are ways to prevent the flu?
• Vaccination is still the best protection available
• Wash your hands
• Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze
• If you are sick, stay home from work and keep your kids home from school if they are sick so it does not spread
• If you do become sick with the flu, there are antiviral medications you can speak about with your doctor
2.Can the flu be treated?
Yes. There are prescription medications called "antiviral drugs" that can be used to treat influenza illness.
3.Should I still get a flu vaccine?
Yes. Antiviral drugs are a second line of defense to treat the flu if you get sick. A flu vaccine is still the first and best way to prevent influenza.
4. What are antiviral drugs?
Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines (pills, liquid, an inhaled powder, or an intravenous solution) that fight against the flu in your body. Antiviral drugs are not sold over-the-counter. You can only get them if you have a prescription from your doctor or health care provider. Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics, which fight against bacterial infections.
5,What are the benefits of antiviral drugs?
When used for treatment, antiviral drugs can lessen symptoms and shorten the time you are sick by 1 or 2 days. They also can prevent serious flu complications, like pneumonia. For people with a high risk medical condition, treatment with an antiviral drug can mean the difference between having milder illness instead of very serious illness that could result in a hospital stay.
6.What antiviral drugs are recommended this flu season?
There are three FDA-approved influenza antiviral drugs recommended by CDC this season to treat influenza. The brand names for these are Tamiflu® (generic name oseltamivir), Relenza® (generic name zanamivir), and Rapivab® (generic name peramivir). Tamiflu® is available as a pill or liquid and Relenza® is a powder that is inhaled. (Relenza® is not for people with breathing problems like asthma or COPD, for example.) Rapivab® is administered intravenously by a health care provider.
7. Can children take antiviral drugs?
Yes. Children can take two of the approved antiviral drugs—oseltamivir and zanamivir. Oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) is recommended by the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for the treatment of influenza in persons aged 2 weeks and older, and for the prevention of influenza in persons aged 3 months and older. Zanamivir (Relenza®) is recommended for the treatment of influenza in persons aged 7 years and older, and for the prevention of influenza in persons aged 5 years and older. Peramivir (Rapivab®) is recommended for use only in adults aged 18 and older.
8. Can pregnant women take antiviral drugs?
Yes. Oral oseltamivir is preferred for treatment of pregnant women because it has the most studies available to suggest that it is safe and beneficial.
9.Who should take antiviral drugs?
It’s very important that antiviral drugs are used early to treat hospitalized patients, people with severe flu illness, and people who are at higher risk for flu complications based on their age or underlying medical conditions. Other people also may be treated with antiviral drugs by their doctor this season. Most otherwise-healthy people who get the flu, however, do not need to be treated with antiviral drugs.