Ever since the Covid-19 pandemic hit Guilford County in early 2020, the word “flu” got greatly upstaged and it’s been that way for years.

And in a way it could be considered a good sign that state health officials are back to warning citizens about the flu.

On Wednesday, Nov. 1, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reminded state residents that the flu is still indeed a threat when the department announced the first two reported flu-related deaths of the 2023-24 flu season.

Two adults in the western part of the state died “due to complications of influenza” during the third and fourth weeks of October, according to state health officials.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Zack Moore said it’s very important for people to get vaccinated annually and added that they also need to “practice good hand hygiene and stay home when sick.”

Influenza, along with other respiratory diseases, is starting to circulate through the state’s population in a bigger way right now, and, as it is every year when it turns cold, instances of the flu – and deaths from it – are expected to increase in the coming months.

There has been a lot of public controversy and discussion about vaccinations in recent years – but it’s no secret where North Carolina public health officials stand on the matter.

The Nov. 1 press release announcing the two flu deaths states: “Vaccinations are the best way to prevent serious illness, hospitalization, and death from these infections. Vaccinations are especially important for those at higher risk of severe viral respiratory disease, including people 65 years and older, children younger than 5, pregnant women, those with a weakened immune system and those with certain medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.”

In addition to vaccines, health officials recommend doing the things everyone in the country knows very well to do by now: Clean your hands often with hand sanitizer or soap; avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth (easier said than done); disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated; and, cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then discard the tissue promptly.