RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Flu deaths in North Carolina this season have exceeded the count for all of last season with about three months left.

The state Department of Health and Human Services reported Thursday that 18 people died from the flu last week, and along with 35 deaths attributed to the flu from previous weeks, the death toll for 2017-2018 has reached 253.

Last year, 218 people died from the flu in North Carolina.

Last Friday, U.S. health officials said fewer visits to the doctor in the previous week were for fever, cough and other flu symptoms than during the previous two weeks. Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say they’re cautious about saying the flu season has peaked but called the downturn encouraging.

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