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Tough Flu Season Could Continue In NC For Weeks

At least seven people have died from flu complications in North Carolina, according to health officials.
Mike Mozart
flickr, Creative Commons

More than 1,200 patients at WakeMed Health and Hospitals have tested positive for the influenza virus this month.

Officials say it's not too late for healthy people to get the flu vaccine, especially since it's unclear when flu season will peak.

“A lot of people thought maybe last week was the peak, because flu activity was so high, but so far it looks like this week is going to be even higher,” said Interim Infection Prevention Director Jessica Dixon. “Flu season still has another 10 to 12 weeks, so it is certainly not too late. It does take about two weeks for the flu vaccine to take effect, once you get the shot, but it's certainly not too late now given the high levels of flu activity that we're seeing.”

In the meantime, Dixon recommends keeping a 6-foot distance from anyone who's coughing.

Dixon added that most people can treat flu symptoms at home with fluids, rest and fever-reducing medicine. But, she added, that the flu can be deadly for very old or young people or for those with other health complications, and they should seek medical care.

North Carolina influenza surveillance summary for the week ending on January 20, 2018.
Credit N.C. Department of Health and Human Services
North Carolina influenza surveillance summary for the week ending on January 20, 2018.

At WakeMed Health and Hospitals, Dixon said many patients and staff are wearing masks to prevent the spread of disease. Visitors under age 12 have been banned for months.

Dixon said that's not just to protect kids from illness, but to protect everyone else.

“Children are not as good at blowing their noses without contaminating themselves, at covering their coughs and things like that, at keeping their germs contained,” she said. “Also children who are sick, with flu specifically, tend to shed more virus. So when they cough, more germs comes out of them than comes out of an adult, which makes them a little but riskier to be around anyway.”

At least 67 North Carolinians have died from flu complications this season. But Dixon points out more than 40 of them have been over the age of 65.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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