The Center for Disease Control (CDC) produces a weekly report of flu cases across the country, and region four, which includes North Carolina, indicated an elevated level of cases being reported.
While states in the region such as Alabama and Mississippi are reporting a higher number of cases, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has confirmed seven deaths in North Carolina due to Influenza A.
In a statement, DHHS said that the deaths occurred in “patients [who] were middle aged adults at increased risk for complications due to underlying medical conditions.”
This comes ahead of peak flu season which the CDC reports to be in January and February.
Director of Allied Health Services at Appalachian District Health Department Jennifer Greene said while Ashe hasn’t seen any reported cases yet, this is expected to change.
“Though we have not had lots of flu activity yet, it is likely we will see more,” Greene said, “We typically see more cases as the winter months continue so getting vaccinated early is key, as flu is serious and claims many lives in our state every year.”
DHHS states “the safest, most effective way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated.”
“The best prevention in protecting yourself and your loved ones from being exposed to the flu is getting the vaccine,” Greene said, “This is especially important if you have any other health conditions like heart disease or diabetes, which puts you at a greater risk for complications.”
Although National Influenza Vaccination Week was Dec. 7-14, the CDC emphasizes it is not too late to get a flu shot, especially for those in groups considered to be high risk: “infants under 2, pregnant women, and people with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, or immune system problems.”
Greene said the flu shot can take up to two weeks to provide protection once administered and the dangers from it are minimal.
“The vaccine does not cause the flu, no matter what you may have heard as rumor,” Greene said.
Aside from the vaccine, Greene said the best practices to avoid contracting flu are frequent hand washing with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds each time and covering your cough or sneeze with your arm or the crook of your elbow.
Greene said those who do contract the flu or its symptoms should seek medical attention early to reduce the duration of illness and should stay home from work for at least 24 hours after fever has gone away without the use of fever reducers.
“Most insurance plans will pay for the vaccine itself, and the health department does have vaccine for children who are uninsured for free (provided by the state vaccine program),” Greene said, “We welcome anyone to walk in for a vaccine at the Ashe County Health Department without an appointment and we take Medicare, Medicaid, and many private insurance plans.”
Visit www.flu.gov for more information from the CDC or www.flu.nc.gov for more information from the N.C. DHHS. The Ashe County Health Department can be reached by calling (336) 246-9449.