Flu season continues in N.C.; healthcare providers report recent increase in sickness
WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Flu season continues in North Carolina and there are preventative measures you can take to keep your family healthy.
For the week of Jan. 27 through Feb. 2, state health officials reported six new flu deaths. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services provides weekly updates on flu statistics every Thursday.
So far this flu season, which runs Oct. through May, 35 people have been confirmed dead from the flu virus in North Carolina. 26 of those deaths were people older than 65 years old.
Flu symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, headaches, chills, fatigue and nausea, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention.
Ashley Welch, a busy mother of three daughters in Wilmington, has been battling the flu in her family this week.
“My oldest daughter, Nora. She’s seven and in first grade. She got diagnosed with the flu Monday morning,” said Welch.
Welch’s husband has also shown symptoms of the flu, although the rapid test at the clinic came back negative.
“They have been quarantined so they don’t get the other people in the house sick,” said Welch. “I don’t want anyone else to get sick, so we have to keep them away. So it’s not a lot of family time, and we don’t get to do the normal routine that we do.”
With all of the sickness going around, Welch is taking precautions by cleaning surfaces and using nutritional supplements to keep her family healthy.
“Our family has been pretty lucky -- we haven’t had it in the past. This is the first time we have gotten it, but I’ve heard it’s really bad in Wilmington this year,” said Welch.
Tom Hoard is a physician assistant at Medac Urgent Care in Monkey Junction with 42 years of experience.
“Maybe a bit of a downtick (of flu cases) this week, but my experience is last week we had many, many more positives. Usually positive influenza A, but occasionally influenza B as well. Some people are extremely sick with fever, body aches, the usual thing you’d expect with the flu," said Hoard.
Hoard said the Medac has also seen a high number of viral upper respiratory infections, bronchitis, occasionally pneumonia, which he said is normal for this time of year.
“Use good hand-washing technique, try to cover up when you cough or sneeze, no co-mingling of toothbrushes," said Hoard. "If you think you have the flu or you’re suspicious, toss out your toothbrush or get a new one, or you can do the same thing by sticking it in the dishwasher and sterilizing it.”
The CDC recommends you stay home at least 24 hours after your fever has subsided if you have the flu.
“Staying home, resting, hydrating, Tylenol or Advil for fever, body aches, chills and the thing runs its course," said Hoard.
If you catch your symptoms early enough and get into a health care provider for treatment, Hoard said an antiviral might help.
“Our clinical experience is if you catch it early and you start on the Tamiflu, it can shorten the course of the illness by a day or two, and can smooth out the rough spots, help with fever, body aches, chills, the overall symptoms," said Hoard.
Is it too late to get the flu shot this flu season? Hoard said not necessarily, especially if you are vulnerable to the virus’ impacts like the very old or very young.
Although experts recommend you get vaccination for the flu by October, Hoard said many providers will still recommend the vaccine at this point in the flu season.
“Remember, it takes two weeks for the active component of the flu vaccination to give you any semblance of protection. So you if you get the flu shot today and then you’re exposed to the flu tomorrow, very little possibility you’re going to have any protection from it," said Hoard, who recommends you do not get the vaccine while feeling sick.
Flu activity across North Carolina is lower than the 2016-2017 flu season, which reportedly killed 391 people.
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