Flu-related deaths are rising in North Carolina, according to a statement issued by the state Department of Health and Human Services earlier this week.
The total number of influenza-associated deaths reported for the 2016-17 flu season is now seven statewide, according to the state agency.
The bug is hitting close to home as well.
Since the end of December, the clinics and emergency department at Northern Hospital of Surry County have seen an increase in the number of patients with flu-like symptoms, or with positive flu swab tests, according to Ashly Lancaster, director of marketing and communications.
“Our pediatric clinic, Northern Pediatrics, has had 71 positive flu cases since August,” Lancaster said. The clinic also has had close to 600 positive strep cases, as strep is much more common in children than adults.
With schools back in session after winter break, health experts are urging parents whose children may have flu-like symptoms to keep them at home, for their own sake and for the sake of their classmates.
“The CDC is reporting widespread flu throughout North Carolina as of Dec. 31, ” said Dr. Lauren Youell, one of six pediatricians at Northern Pediatrics.
“The flu can hit kids hard, but some may have the flu and not feel very sick at all. They may have just a runny nose, cough and low-grade fever. These kids can easily spread the flu to classmates, teachers and family members who may become seriously ill with the flu.”
Healthy adults may be able to infect others as early as the day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others for an even longer time.
“Symptoms begin within about one to four days, with an average of about two days,” said Youell.
Symptoms and signs of the flu often include some or all of the following — fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue. Some people may also experience vomiting and diarrhea, though according to the Center for Disease Control, this is more common in children than adults.
“Those at high risk from the flu include people 65 years of age or older, pregnant women and young children,” said the doctor.
Despite the outbreak the hospital has not had to implement any visitor restrictions, stated Kitty Horton, manager of infection prevention at Northern Hospital.
Also, Horton said the vaccine seems to be effective toward the particular strand of flu, H3N2, the most common strand reported to the CDC by U.S. Public Health Laboratories.
“The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year,” cited Lancaster from the CDC web site, www.cdc.gov.
Reach Eva Winemiller at (336) 415-4739 or on Twitter @ReporterEva