(WGHP) — North Carolina has reported its first flu-related death of the season.

The state Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday that an adult in the western part of the state died during the third week of October from complications from the flu.

“This is a sad reminder that flu can be a serious illness and can lead to complications and even death in some cases,” said Dr. Zack Moore, the state’s epidemiologist. “With flu cases increasing and COVID-19 still with us, it is tremendously important for people to get a flu vaccine this year.”

Flu cases and deaths were historically low during the 2020-21 and 2021-22 flu seasons. The number of flu deaths reported in North Carolina ranged from 186 to 391 during the five prior seasons.

North Carolina is seeing an increase in illnesses caused by respiratory viruses other than COVID-19 — including influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, known as RSV — that is greater than at any time since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends annual flu vaccinations for anyone 6 months or older.

Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent infection with the flu, and doing so can also make illness milder for those who do get the flu, officials said. It is especially important for those at higher risk of more serious outcomes, such as people 65 or older, children younger than five, pregnant women and those with certain medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

Flu and COVID-19 vaccines can be administered at the same visit.

Flu vaccinations are available at hospitals, pharmacies, private medical offices, some federally qualified healthcare centers and local health departments. To find a flu vaccine near you, click here.

In North Carolina, flu infections are most common from late fall to early spring with activity usually peaking in January or February. The following precautions should be taken to protect against the spread of flu and other viruses:

  • Get vaccinated. Flu vaccines can be given at the same time as bivalent COVID-19 boosters for those who are eligible.
  • Stay home from work or school when sick to avoid spreading infection to others.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then discard the tissue promptly.
  • To layer up protection, people can practice the three Ws — wearing a face covering over your nose and mouth, waiting 6 feet apart, and washing your hands often can help slow the spread of flu and other respiratory viruses.

Anyone who feels ill should call ahead before going to a doctor’s office, local health department or urgent care to avoid exposing others. Flu symptoms include:

  • fever
  • cough and/or sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • headaches and/or body aches
  • chills
  • fatigue
  • nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea (most common in children)

Antiviral drugs are available and can help prevent flu infections from becoming more serious. Treatments work best if started soon after symptoms begin. If you feel sick, contact your doctor right away to see if you need treatment with a prescription antiviral drug. Treatment with a prescription antiviral drug is especially important for hospitalized patients, people with severe illness, and those who are at higher risk of serious flu illness based on their age or health.

A respiratory virus surveillance summary that includes information on COVID-19, RSV and flu-related deaths and activity is posted every Wednesday here.