CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The flu claimed more lives across the Carolinas this week.
New numbers showed 16 people have died in North Carolina this flu season. In South Carolina, 14 people have passed away from flu-related complications.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the flu is now widespread in 24 states, including the Palmetto State, and the virus is spreading fast.
Doctors said the worst of this year's flu season is yet to come, and it's likely to last through April. So it's not too late to protect you and your family by getting a flu shot.
2017-2018 was an historic flu season. The CDC estimated some 49 million people fell ill to the virus. Some 79,000 died.
So far this flu season, numbers have been at or just above the national baseline. However, over the past three weeks, the CDC said the number of flu cases has skyrocketed.
"So I encourage all people who have not gotten the flu vaccine yet to go and get a flu vaccine. It's not too late," said Dr. Stephen Lingo at Atrium Health.
Numbers showed those most susceptible to this season's strain are school-aged children. Seven kids have already died.
The CDC also said hospitalization rates for children 5 and younger are now the highest among all age groups. Doctors said the biggest lesson from last year's deadly season is vaccination does make a difference.
"80 percent of the kids who did succumb to influenza last year had not been vaccinated nationwide," said Dr. Lingo.
With the flu now at peak levels in South Carolina and moderate levels in North Carolina, doctors are bracing for what's to come.
"We're right on the border of South Carolina, so we're not far behind. There's plenty of flu in North Carolina as well we just haven't reached as high as a level this early as South Carolina, but we will follow," Dr. Lingo said.
In an effort to help stop the spread of the flu, hospitals across the country, including both major hospitals in Asheville, have placed restrictions on who can enter the facilities.
Children are prohibited, and those with cold or flu symptoms are asked to refrain from visiting patients.
In Charlotte, hospitals have not yet put restrictions on visitors but say that could change.