The state announced Wednesday the first two reported flu-related deaths of the 2023-24 flu season.

Two adults in the western part of the state died due to complications of influenza during the third and fourth weeks of October, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services [DHHS] announced.

"We know both flu and COVID-19 can lead to severe complications and even death in some cases,” said State Epidemiologist Zack Moore, M.D., MPH. “As flu season ramps up and COVID-19 is still circulating, it is very important for people to get their annual vaccines, practice good hand hygiene and stay home when sick.”

One person had tested positive for both influenza and COVID-19. To protect the privacy of both families, additional information will not be released.

Influenza, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are all circulating now and are expected to increase over the coming months, the DHHS said.

The DHHS said vaccinations are the best way to prevent serious illness, hospitalization, and death from these infections. Vaccinations are especially important for those at higher risk of severe viral respiratory disease, including people 65 years and older, children younger than 5, pregnant women, those with a weakened immune system and those with certain medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all people aged 6 months and older receive a fall COVID-19 vaccine and seasonal flu vaccine.

RSV vaccinations are also available to protect older adults and for pregnant women during weeks 32 through 36 of pregnancy to protect infants. Parents should talk with their health care provider about other options to protect infants from severe RSV disease.

In addition to vaccines, the state recommends the following precautions to protect against the spread of respiratory viruses:

  • Regularly clean your hands with hand sanitizer or soap and water to prevent the spread of viruses to others
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then discard the tissue promptly
  • Stay home when sick, except to seek medical care or testing, and take steps to avoid spreading infection to others in your home, including:
    • Staying in a separate room from other household members, if possible
    • Using a separate bathroom, if possible
    • Avoiding contact with other members of the household and pets
    • Not sharing personal household items, like cups, towels and utensils
    • Wearing a mask when around other people

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