Flu Activity Increasing in North Carolina
The most current information available from the State Laboratory of Public Health, hospital emergency departments, and sentinel sites across North Carolina all indicate an increase in influenza activity throughout the state during the last two weeks. State health officials are again encouraging any North Carolinians who have not already been vaccinated against the flu to do so immediately.
"We are seeing an upswing in influenza activity," said Dr. Leah Devlin, State Health Director. "We want to remind everyone that it is still not too late to get immunized against the flu. There is plenty of vaccine available, so if anyone has not gotten their flu immunization, they should contact their doctor or local health department about scheduling an appointment. People still have time to protect themselves and their loved ones from the flu."
North Carolina's flu season usually peaks in mid-February to March. The state monitors flu activity through a sentinel provider network and a hospital emergency department surveillance system (known as NC DETECT). Seventy-four health providers across North Carolina report the number of their patients who are experiencing influenza-like illness (ILI), which is a fever of at least 100 degrees and cough or sore throat. Additionally, 94 hospitals report daily emergency department visits electronically through NC DETECT. Thursday's sentinel report shows that flu activity continues to intensify in the state, and the State Epidemiologist reported to CDC that the level of influenza activity in the state has increased to REGIONAL.
Vaccinations are recommended for anyone who wants to decrease the risk of influenza. While anyone can get the flu, many groups, including people aged 50 years or older, children aged 6 months to 59 months, those with chronic illnesses (heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, diabetes), and pregnant women, are at highest risk for complications. In addition, those in close contact with these high risk persons, such as health care personnel, and healthy household contacts and caregivers of high risk persons, are also at increased risk and should get vaccinated.
As in any flu season, Dr. Devlin strongly urges people to take basic precautions to prevent contracting or spreading the flu. "Avoid contact with ill persons and frequently wash your hands to reduce your risk of infection," she said. Anyone who is coughing or sneezing should cover their nose and mouth with a handkerchief to limit spread of the virus.
Influenza symptoms begin suddenly and may include fever, severe headache and body aches, sore throat and cough. Fever, chills, muscle/joint pain and extreme fatigue also characterize the disease. The flu can make a person more susceptible to pneumonia, an illness that puts a severe strain on the heart and lungs especially dangerous for people who already suffer from heart or lung disease. If you get the flu, stay home, get plenty of rest, drink a lot of liquids, and avoid using alcohol and tobacco products. Also, you can take medications such as acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol