Positive flu tests have more than doubled since early November, according to data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Flu cases have increased rapidly, but have not yet reached 2021-22 rates. 

Last month, the department announced the first pediatric flu-related death of the season. North Carolina has seen a total of 14 deaths since Oct. 21, and the majority of deaths were patients over the age of 65. 

What You Need To Know

  •  The state has reported 14 flu-related deaths this season

  •  Flu cases doubled in the last week 

  •  COVID cases have been increasing in recent weeks, though hospital admissions remain low

  • Public health officials encourage vaccinations for COVID, the flu and RSV

Over the past few weeks, cases of respiratory illnesses, like COVID-19, the flu and RSV, have been rising steadily in North Carolina, in line with the larger national increase. 

Dr. Zack Moore, state epidemiologist at DHHS, has encouraged people to get themselves and their families vaccinated against COVID and the flu. He said people older than 65, children younger than 5, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems are most at risk. 

“Vaccination is the most effective protection against serious illness, hospitalizations and death from flu, RSV and COVID-19 infections,” Moore said in a news release. 

Children older than 6 months are eligible to receive a seasonal flu vaccine and COVID vaccine, and pregnant women between 32-36 weeks can get an RSV vaccine to protect infants. 

Data from the DHHS shows the southern Piedmont region has the highest rate of flu-related emergency room visits. As of Dec. 9, flu-related illness makes up 5.5% of ER visits in the region, which includes Cumberland, Robeson, Johnston, Moore and Harnett counties. 

The region also has the highest rate of people coming to the ER with COVID, at 4.6% of all visits. 

Across North Carolina, about 13.9% of patients visiting the ER showed symptoms of a respiratory virus, a rate that has steadily increased since mid-October. There were 556 hospitalizations for COVID and 300 for the flu from Dec. 3-9. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says flu season usually peaks from December to February. Data collected on Dec. 9 shows cases of COVID and the flu rose in the past week, increasing by the hundreds. 

Click here to find available COVID and flu vaccines near you.