Flu and COVID cases rise across North Carolina

Hospitalizations for both COVID and the flu are on the rise.
Published: Dec. 14, 2022 at 9:22 AM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Hospitalizations for both COVID and the flu are on the rise. The flu hasn’t been top of mind for the last two winters, but it’s still here and worse than it has been in a long time.

The flu season this year started earlier than usual and nearly all states are reporting high levels of influenza activity. To put it in perspective, there hasn’t been an upward surge like this in nearly a decade.

Flu hospital admissions nearly doubled during the week of Thanksgiving, which shows how travel and large indoor gatherings can cause a spike in illness.

Last week in North Carolina, there were over 3,000 positive tests that were reported by hospitals, and over Thanksgiving there were about 4,000 positive tests. That’s 6.4% higher than last year. Health officials say that’s why it’s important to help prevent the flu now, instead of taking a risk.

“Right now is a great time to get these vaccines if you haven’t gotten them because it’s holiday season, and we’re going to be traveling or we’re going to be indoors. We’re also going to be around a whole lot of people. It takes about two weeks for full immunity to kick in with vaccinations and so this is the perfect time to go get your vaccine,” said Carla Turner, assistant health director of New Hanover County Health & Human Services.

Nationally, COVID hospitalizations are up 18.8% week to week, which is higher than surges from last winter and spring.

The state health department says that just last week, an average of 656 patients per day were admitted into hospitals with COVID-19. Additionally, 33% of the state is not vaccinated, that’s about 3.5 million people.

Locally, New Hanover County remains at a low COVID-19 community level.

Turner says it’s important to continue doing things like wearing a mask in a public setting and frequently washing your hands.

“For a couple of years people had masks on their faces and so we protected ourselves not just from COVID, but from flu and RSV. Now, we’re not wearing our masks, so our immunity may have waned a little bit and we may have an increased chance of catching it when being exposed,” said Turner.

New Hanover County is offering a pop-up vaccine clinic on Wednesday, December 14th for flu and COVID-19 vaccines. It’s taking place at the Senior Resource Center, located at 2222 College Road in Wilmington from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

They’re offering the regular flu vaccine at no cost, and a specific one recommended for people 65 and older. COVID boosters are free as well, and both Pfizer and Moderna will be available for ages 12 and up.

To find out the latest local numbers on the flu and COVID, visit the NCDHHS website. For national statistics, visit the CDC website.