The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services has reported the state’s first flu-related death of the season.

The person was over the age of 65 and lives in central North Carolina, officials said. To protect the privacy of the family, the person’s hometown, county, age and gender will not be released.

Track flu-related deaths throughout the 2020-21 season here. Updated numbers are reported each Thursday.

The Division of Public Health has been tracking flu cases since Sept. 27 and will continue doing so through May. In North Carolina, flu infections are most common from late fall to early spring with cases usually peaking in January or February. It’s important to get a flu shot by late October, doctors say.

Anyone over 6 months of age is strongly encouraged to get a flu shot, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The flu shot is especially important for people over 65 years old, children younger than 5, pregnant women and those with certain medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

“This is a sad reminder that flu can be a serious illness and can lead to complications and even death in some cases,” said State Epidemiologist Zack Moore, M.D., MPH. “With flu season starting during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever for people to get a flu vaccine this year.”

During the 2019-20 flu season, 186 flu deaths were reported in North Carolina, down from 208 deaths during the 2018-19 flu season. Of those 186 deaths, 105 were people age 65 and older and five were under the age of 18.

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