RALEIGH, N.C. — State health officials said Thursday 17 more people have died from the flu in North Carolina, the fifth straight week in which more than 10 people have died from the virus.
There were no pediatric deaths in the latest report issued by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
The death toll for the 2017-18 season is 165, including 132 deaths in the last five weeks.
Experts say this season nationwide is now as bad as the swine flu epidemic nine years ago.
According to a government report released last Friday, 1 of every 13 visits to the doctor last week was for fever, cough and other symptoms of the flu. That ties the highest level seen in the U.S. during swine flu in 2009.
And it surpasses every winter flu season since 2003, when the government changed the way it measures flu.
“I wish that there were better news this week, but almost everything we’re looking at is bad news,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Flu season usually takes off in late December and peaks around February. This season started early and was widespread in many states by December. Early last month, it hit what seemed like peak levels — but then continued to surge.
Last week, North Carolina reported 39 flu-related deaths.
This year’s flu virus tends to put more people in the hospital and cause more deaths. Still, its long-lasting intensity has surprised experts, who are still sorting out why it’s been so bad. One possibility is that the vaccine is doing an unusually poor job.