The number of suspected and confirmed Flu cases has greatly increased nationwide over the past few weeks. Generally speaking, Flu season usually begins in late December thru early January and begins to peak in late February thru March. This year, numerous Flu cases have already been widely reported during the fall months with North Carolina reporting two deaths associated with the Flu. Flu kills approximately 25,000 people and causes 220,000 hospitalizations every year in the United States.
Flu activity in North Carolina is higher than normal for this time of year, prompting state health officials to remind North Carolinians that now is the best time to get vaccinated for Flu. “Holiday travel and visits with family may provide more opportunities for cold and Flu germs to spread,” State Health Director Laura Gerald said. “Getting a Flu vaccination now will reduce the chances that you will get seasonal Flu and lessen the chance that you will spread it to friends and family.”
According to information collected by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Public Health, health care providers across the state, including college student health centers, already are seeing an increase in Flu-like illness. “Last year, we had a mild Flu season, but that is not necessarily an indicator of what we can expect this year,” said Dr. Gerald. “Our State Laboratory of Public Health handles Flu tests for providers across the state and since the beginning of November, we have seen an increase in positive test results.”
The Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by Flu viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The Flu is different from a cold. The Flu usually comes on suddenly and people who have the Flu can have one or more of the following symptoms:
Vomiting/Diarrhea – this is usually more common in children
NOTE: It is important to note that not everyone with the Flu will have a fever
One of the best ways to protect yourself from the Flu is to get a Flu shot every year. The Flu vaccination is recommended for anyone over the age of six months old and highly recommended for those in high risk categories like pregnant women, the elderly, young children and those with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease.
During the colder months, Flu and other types of infections, such as colds and respiratory illnesses, increase due to more people being indoors and in closer contact to others. There are some basic health habits that people can perform to help decrease the spread of Flu and other infections to their families, friends, co-workers and the public. These habits include simple things, such as:
Get a Flu vaccine. This helps protect you from the Flu and helps boost your immune system, which may also help protect you from other winter-time infections.
Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze using a tissue or your elbow, not your hand; when you use your hand, you spread the germs onto your hand, then touch other things, which spreads germs. If you use a tissue, throw it away immediately and wash your hands as soon as possible.
Wash your hands often using soap, water and a clean towel or hand drying device. You can also use hand sanitizers/wipes.
If you have been diagnosed with the Flu, STAY HOME. If your child or another family member has been diagnosed, keep them home. DO NOT go out in public or take your child/family member with the Flu out in public unless it is necessary.
If you are sick with the Flu, a cold or other illness that you can spread to others, DO NOT visit with others who may be at increased risk if they get the Flu or other infections, such as people who have been hospitalized, are in nursing homes or are receiving care that can affect their immune systems, such as cancer treatments.
If you have symptoms and go to a medical facility, you may be asked to wear a mask. Please make sure you keep the mask on until you leave the facility unless your medical provider tells you otherwise.
So give yourself and your family a great Christmas present this year – give everyone the gift of a Flu vaccine. Flu vaccines are available at the Sampson County Health Department, area pharmacies and area medical providers’ offices. For more information, call 910-592-1131.