RALEIGH (AP) — Eight people died from the flu last week, helping to push North Carolina’s record-setting death toll for 2017-18 to 328, health officials said Thursday.
In addition to the eight deaths reported for the week ending March 17, officials say 15 people who died in previous weeks were determined to have had the flu. Of the total, 16 victims were aged 65 and older.
The death toll for last week marked the first time since the week ending Dec. 23 that there had been fewer than 10 deaths. By comparison, the most deaths for any week during the flu season have been 50 for the week ending Feb. 17.
One sign that the flu season is subsiding is that visitor restrictions for children 12 and under ended March 16 at Triad hospitals after being put in place Jan. 12. Infection prevention teams at the hospitals met and determined they were all seeing similar downward trends in flu cases.
“While we continue monitoring the influenza virus as it continues to circulate in our area, we’ve seen the rates decrease steadily in the past several weeks,” Larry Givner, professor of pediatric infectious diseases at Wake Forest Baptist Hospital, told the Winston-Salem Journal.
As of March 15, restrictions were still in place at Scotland Memorial Hospital in Laurinburg and at FirstHealth facilities as of Monday.
In neighboring South Carolina, the Greenville News reported March 17 that 221 people had died from the flu in that state — more than any of the previous five seasons.
Despite that, a hospital in Chesterfield County never put restrictions in place.
“McLeod Health Cheraw did not restrict visitation for the flu but requested visitors to not come into the hospital if they had signs or symptoms of the flu,” Michelle King, corporate director of epidemiology, said in an email on Monday. “We also placed masks, hand sanitizer, tissues and signs listing the signs and symptoms of the flu at each entrance.”
Vaccine supplies began running low in Richmond County in late January.
The flu season usually runs from October until March 31, but has been known to run into April.