RALEIGH, N.C. -- The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) reports there are five new flu deaths, bringing the total number to 13 this season.
The Guilford County Health Department confirmed Friday one of the recent deaths is from Guilford County. The health department reported the county's third flu death at the end of December.
According to NCDHHS, only one of the five people was older than 65 years old. The department reports the flu is killing middle-aged to young adults. Twelve of the 13 people who have died from the flu in North Carolina were adults under the age of 65.
NCDHHS is not releasing the location of where all the flu deaths occurred at this time. However, the agency confirmed all thirteen people did have "underlying health" conditions.
It's not too late to get a flu shot. Doctors say the flu shot is less effective later in the season, but still beneficial.
"Now is not the optimal time to get the flu shot, but it's never too late. The best time to get the flu shot is when it just comes out on the market," Guilford County Health Department Medical Director Ward Robinson said. "Recognize that it's not going to be optimal because you have flu circulating in the community. You may confuse the side effects of flu itself with the vaccine. With that understanding, yes, go ahead and get the vaccine now, right away."
Cone Health Infectious Disease Doctor Cynthia Snider added, "The key thing for prevention is making sure that you get vaccinated. There is still time in the season to get vaccinated. It takes just a few weeks to mount the immunity against it."
In addition to getting the vaccine Dr. Sinder says there is another easy way to increase your chances of staying healthy.
"Handwashing sounds really basic, but you would be surprised by how easily other illnesses are easily contracted by touching surfaces," Dr. Snider said.
NCDHHS provided the following information:
Flu vaccination is the most effective treatment against the flu. If you have not gotten your flu vaccine yet this season, you should get one now. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against influenza virus infection. Flu vaccine is widely available and protects against the strains of flu circulating this year, including H1N1. Flu vaccine is available in nasal spray and shot form.
In addition to vaccination, NCDHHS encourages everyone to use personal precautions to protect against the spread of flu and other viruses:
•Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then discard the tissue promptly.
•Wash hands frequently, preferably with soap and water or an approved hand sanitizer.
•Stay home when you are sick until you are fever free for at least 24 hours.
For more information on flu and to find out where you can get a flu vaccination in your community, visit www.flu.nc.gov.
WFMY News 2