RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - State health officials said Thursday that 21 people died from the flu in North Carolina last week.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported Thursday that in addition to the 21 deaths, four more deaths in previous weeks were determined to be flu-related. For the 2017-18 flu season, 67 people have died in the state.

Of the 67 deaths, 42 were ages 65 and older, 18 victims were between 50 to 64, and four were from 25 to 49. The remaining three were listed as pediatric deaths.

To stem the rise in flu cases, hospitals across North Carolina are restricting access to visitors 12 and under.

Health officials last week said flu was blanketing the country but they thought there was a good chance the season was already peaking. But new numbers out last Friday showed it grew even more intense.

"This is a season that has a lot more steam than we thought," Dr. Dan Jernigan, at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told The Associated Press.

The flu season became intense last month in the U.S. The last two weekly reports show flu widespread over the entire continental United States, which is unusual.

Young children and the elderly are at greatest risk from flu and its complications. In a bad season, there are as many as 56,000 deaths connected to the flu. In the U.S., annual flu shots are recommended for everyone age 6 months or older.