RALEIGH, N.C. -- North Carolina's Department of Health and Human Services says 17 flu deaths were reported last week, bringing the two-week total to 33.

Although flu activity has started to die down, DHHS says the virus remains widespread throughout the state.

So far this season, the flu has claimed the lives of 83 people. During the 2014-15 season, the flu-related deaths reached 218, the highest number since the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. Last season, North Carolina recorded 59 flu-associated deaths.

The flu vaccine, although recommended early in the season, is still available.

Other ways you can protect yourself is to be vigilant about washing your hands, cover coughs and sneezes and discard tissues promptly. Lastly, if you're sick, stay home until you're fever-free for 24 hours.