The flu has further tightened its grip on the U.S. This season is now as bad as the swine flu epidemic nine years ago.

Governor Roy Cooper today urged all North Carolinians to take extra precautions to avoid catching or spreading the flu virus during peak flu season. Influenza has claimed the lives of at least 140 North Carolinians since flu season began in October.

“We‘re in the middle of a nationwide flu epidemic and I’m asking North Carolinians to do their part to stay healthy and stop the flu from spreading,” Gov. Cooper said. “There are a few simple actions we can all take to fight the flu: get your flu shot if you haven’t already, wash your hands and cover sneezes and coughs, and stay home from work or school if you get the flu.”

State epidemiologists report that influenza activity remained widespread during the week ending Feb. 3. Flu-associated deaths reported since Oct. 1 include 97 who were 65 or older, 33 ages 50-64, six ages 25-49, three ages 5-17 and one younger than five.

Health officials announced last Thursday there were 34 flu deaths in North Carolina the previous week, the fourth straight week in which the death toll has exceeded the previous week’s total.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services said in its report that one of the deaths for the week ending Feb. 3 was identified as a pediatric death, specifically someone between the ages of 5 and 17. That person wasn’t identified, nor was the location of that death.

The total marks the highest one-week figure since flu season began last October.

The flu virus spreads easily, according to public health experts. The germs that cause influenza are spread up to six feet when someone who has the flu coughs or sneezes and can even be spread when you speak. If you touch items where flu germs have landed and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth, the flu virus can enter your body and make you sick.

“If you think you may have the flu, you should contact your doctor to see if treatment with a prescription antiviral drug, like Tamiflu, is needed,” said State Epidemiologist Zack Moore, M.D. “Treatment with a prescription antiviral drug is especially important for hospitalized patients, people with severe flu illness and those who are at high risk of serious flu complications based on their age or health.”

People with flu and flu-like symptoms are urged to be especially cautious about spreading the virus to infants, seniors and other people who are more vulnerable to serious illness.

To protect yourself and others as flu continues to circulate during the coming months:

~Get a flu shot. It is not too late to get vaccinated and benefit. Getting the shot helps reduce the duration and severity of illness. Go to, scroll to the Flu Vaccine Finder and enter your ZIP code to identify a location near you where you can get vaccinated.

~Take common-sense steps to reduce the spread of flu. Wash your hands frequently, cover your coughs and sneezes and stay home from work or school while sick.

~Recognize flu symptoms so you can seek medical help quickly and avoid infecting others. Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headache, fatigue, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. If you get these symptoms, check with your health care professional. A doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication to lessen your symptoms and reduce the risk of serious flu complications, such as pneumonia.

It is likely that there will be a high level of flu activity for weeks to come. The North Carolina Division of Public Health posts flu surveillance reports every Thursday through May at

This article was written with the help of the Associated Press.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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