Local health officials partner to combat Widespread Flu in the High Country

Influenza (flu) is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Every flu season is different, and influenza infection can affect people differently. Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others. The “seasonal flu season” in the United States can begin as early as October and last as late as May.

Jennifer Greene, Health Director and CEO of AppHealthCare advised that “the flu season has begun and local public health is monitoring the data.”

“We have begun to see a significant increase in flu within the past week,” said Dr. Danielle Mahaffey, Chief Physician Executive for Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS). “Prior to last week 1 to 2 cases per week was the norm. However, from Friday (December 21) to Wednesday (December 26) eighteen (18) cases had been identified. Seventeen (17) of those cases were influenza A.”

Dr. Mahaffey added, “As a result of this increase – and in an effort to protect our patients and reduce the spread of flu – ARHS will require all unvaccinated employees to wear an isolation mask when they are within six (6) feet of patients/residents at any ARHS facility or office beginning Friday, December 28. We will also ask our employees to refrain from coming to work if they have flu-like symptoms themselves.”

“The 2017-18 flu season was the most severe in modern-day North Carolina history. While we don’t have an indication that this flu season will be more severe than normal, we want to work with the AppHealthCare to educate people about how to prevent it and what to do if they get it.”

“The best measures for prevention of contracting the flu is to get vaccinated and wash your hands, and it is not too late to get your flu vaccine,” said Jennifer Greene.

Local Cases of Flu: The most recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows increasing flu activity for the United States.

February as Peak Month for Flu ActivityThe CDC monitors flu activity by month and from the years 1982-83 through 2013-14, flu activity most often peaked in February (14 seasons) in the United States. In North Carolina, hospital-based Public Health Epidemiologists reported 19 positive influenza results out of 664 samples tested during week 3 (ending 1/23/2016); 8 positive influenza A (unknown), 6 positive influenza B, and 5 positive influenza A (H1) (Source: NC DHHS).

Flu Vaccine: The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated each year. It is not too late to get a flu vaccine. According to the CDC, as long as the flu virus is circulating, vaccination is appropriate. Once someone is vaccinated, it will take about two weeks to develop antibodies in the body to protect against flu.

Signs & Symptoms and What to Do:

Signs & Symptoms

  • A 100oF or higher fever or feeling feverish (not everyone with the flu has a fever)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

If you do become sick, call your healthcare provider or the health department for recommendations.

To Protect You and Your Family From Flu:

  • Get your flu vaccine!
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you are sick with flu–like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.

Appointments to get your flu vaccine are available daily at the health department and the vaccine is available at local healthcare providers and pharmacy locations. For more information about the flu, go to www.flu.nc.gov or www.cdc.gov/flu or contact Appalachian District Health Department at (828) 264-4995.

Source: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

For additional information about this event and more from AppHealthCare please call 828-264-4995 or visit our website at www.apphealthcare.com and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.