Despite North Carolina seeing minimal cases of the flu, local health care officials are urging all those over six months of age to get the flu vaccination.
While the flu season doesn’t typically peak until January, individual cases began surfacing as early as September. For that reason, health care officials are encouraging everyone to get flu vaccinations now.
“The flu vaccine is the best way to prevent serious illness and help stop the spread of the flu, especially for vulnerable populations like young children and people 65 and older,” North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen, MD, shared. “If you have not gotten your flu shot yet, don’t delay and be sure to make a plan to get one soon.”
Receiving those vaccinations, health care officials say, is very important when fighting the flu.
“One of the most important services our pharmacy can offer during flu season is help protecting patients against the seasonal flu,” Amanda Bryan, pharmacist at Clinton Drug Company, said. “It is important to be prepared during this flu season, and we are dedicated to supporting our community by providing patients with these essential vaccinations and educating them on additional measures they can take to help reduce their risk of getting the flu.”
According to Wanda Holden, Infection Control Nurse with Sampson Regional Medical Center, there were 583 confirmed cases of the flu during the six month period from September 2016 until March 2017.
Locally, flu activity this year has been described as sporadic, however, state epidemiologist Zack Moore, MD, says the number of cases should begin to increase in the coming weeks.
“Sporadic activity is typical for this time of year,” Moore stated in a press release. “We expect flu activity to increase in coming months, which is why it’s important to get vaccinated now.”
Even North Carolina First Lady Kristin Cooper joined in with the encouragement, asking residents to be proactive and get their flu vaccination.
“A flu shot is a simple step that is vitally important to protecting yourself during flu season,” Cooper noted. “Not only does it protect you, it protects people around you, including your friends and family.”
There are suggestions for helping contain the virus and keep it from spreading to others. According to Holden, one of the best ways to prevent the flu is by getting the flu vaccine. While there has been some concern that this year’s vaccine is not as effective due to the mutation of the virus, it will still protect against other strains and will decrease the severity of the illness for those who catch it.
According to Holden, tips for helping prevent the spread of the virus include:
• Hand and respiratory hygiene is the next best step to preventing the spread of flu. Hand washing helps stop the spread of germs. It’s recommended that you wash often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
• It’s also important to remember to disinfect surfaces and objects that may come in contact with flu germs. In the home and workplace, disinfect phones, keyboards, door handles, and other commonly touched surfaces. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth to prevent the spread of germs.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick, and if you are sick, try to stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone. It’s also recommended that people wear a face mask to reduce spreading or catching germs.
• If you cough or sneeze, use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose, or direct your cough or sneeze into your elbow. This way, you are less likely to touch a surface and spread germs.
“Sampson Regional Medical Center has hygiene stations located at all main entrances and throughout the hospital to promote hand washing and use of face masks,” Holden advised. “While masks are not required, it is highly encouraged that visitors wear a mask when visiting patients. We also advise visitors to clean their hands at a hand washing station as they enter and exit the facility.”
According to local health care officials, different flu viruses circulate and cause illness each season. The flu vaccine is changed every year to protect against the flu virus. The CDC, Center for Disease Control, tracks the various strains of the flu and change the vaccines to help fight the most common strains that are found each year.
Local pharmacies and physician offices are offering the flu vaccination daily. Anyone who feels like they are experiencing flu-like symptoms, such as fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting, are encouraged to contact their doctor’s office or seek medical attention.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.