Public health officials announce first 2023 flu-related death in Buncombe County

Press release from Buncombe County

Buncombe County Health and Human Services received notification on December 11, 2023, regarding the first reported flu-associated death of a Buncombe County resident during the 2023–24 flu season. In order to safeguard the family’s privacy, no further details will be disclosed.

Dr. Ellis Matheson, Buncombe County Public Health Director, expressed, “It is with heavy hearts that we announce the first flu-related death in our Buncombe County community. We take the seasonal flu seriously, recognizing its potential for severe illness and even fatality. We strongly encourage the community to take preventive measures against influenza and other circulating respiratory illnesses. Now is the time to get vaccinated, especially before participating in seasonal celebrations with friends and family. Additional precautions include staying up-to-date on vaccinations, practicing good hand hygiene, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home if feeling unwell.”

The CDC recommends flu vaccination every year for everyone 6 months and older. In addition to being the best way to prevent infection with the flu, vaccination can also make illness milder for those who do get the flu. Certain groups are at higher risk for serious illness from flu, including children younger than five, pregnant women, people over 65 and those with certain chronic medical conditions such as heart or lung disease.

Anyone who thinks they have the flu should contact their doctor right away to see if they need treatment with a prescription antiviral drug. Early treatment with an antiviral drug can help prevent flu infections from becoming more serious. Individuals who feel ill should call ahead before going to a doctor’s office, urgent care or other provider to avoid exposing others. COVID-19 and flu symptoms are similar, so consult with a doctor about getting tested for flu and/or COVID-19. 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)

Public Health officials urge the community to get vaccinated if you haven’t already taken this step. Flu vaccinations are widely available in the community including private medical offices, pharmacies, health departments, and health centers. Layer up your protection by washing your hands often, choosing less crowded spaces and events, and wearing a mask during times of higher respiratory illness circulation in addition to getting vaccinated. North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services provides information on seasonal flu levels on this webpage.

Don’t let the flu stop you this winter. Check out the flu shot locator page, enter your zip code, and get your flu shot today.

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