Influenza activity continues to increase in the United States, according to Center for Disease Control’s latest FluView report. A map on the CDC’s website shows that the cases of influenza is considered by the CDC to be widespread in the Carolinas.
Influenza, commonly called the flu, is a viral infection that attacks your respiratory system — your nose, throat and lungs. The flu is not the same as the stomach “flu” viruses that cause diarrhea and vomiting, according to the Mayo Clinic website.
While the timing of the flu can vary from season to season, flu activity typically peaks in the U.S. in January or February although it can begin as early as October and continue as late as May, said the Mayo Clinic.
The symptoms of the flu may seem like the common cold, but a cold usually develops slowly, whereas the flu tends to come on suddenly. Although a cold can be annoying, the flu usually makes people feel worse, says the CDC.
An easy way to remember the symptoms of the flu, according to flufacts.com, are to know the F.A.C.T.S; Fever, Aches, Chills, Tiredness, and Sudden onset of symptoms are common indicators of the flu.
The 2011-2012 flu season began late and was relatively mild compared with previous flu seasons and the 2012-2013 flu season began relatively early, the CDC’s website said.
Tommy Jarrell, Health Director at the Richmond County Health Department in Rockingham, said this year the flu “has been real rapid across the whole state.”
“This is the earliest the flu has been out and this aggressive in 10 years,” Jarrell said.
In a report from FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital in Rockingham that is based on hospital data, there were 129 positive flu cases in the month of December and 25 positive flu cases so far for the month of January.
Sandhills Regional Medical Center in Hamlet reported having 15 cases of the flu since Dec. 1.
“The single best way to prevent the spread of flu is to get a flu vaccine each season,” says Catherine Locklear, R.N., infection control and employee health nurse at FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital.
Jarrell said that it takes 2-3 weeks for the flu vaccine to begin to protect the body.
Locklear, Jarrell and Sandhills Regional Medical Center all gave ways to prevent the flu. Locklear said in addition to getting a flu vaccine, people should “make sure to wash your hands often and cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing to prevent the spread of infections.”
Locklear also warns people to stay away from the hospital if they have symptoms of the flu.
“In an effort to protect patients, visitors and staff, FirstHealth asks that the community limit hospital visitation to immediate family only and asks that children under the age of 12 not visit the hospital,” said Locklear.
“Additionally, if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue, you should not visit the hospital,” she said.
If you have flu-like symptoms, the doctor may prescribe a medication called Tamiflu. Cindy Fetzner, pharmacy manager of Walgreens on East Broad Avenue (Business U.S. 74) in Rockingham, said they have seen a lot of prescriptions for Tamiflu this year and they still have flu shots available for people who are interested.
A press release sent by Sandhills Medical Center reminds and urges people, especially the elderly, to get a flu vaccine.
The release talks about three different types of flu vaccines that are available. Those shots are the regular seasonal flu shot, the high dose vaccine and the nasal spray flu vaccine.
A regular seasonal flu shot is the most common flu shot. It is an intramuscular vaccine that is injected into the upper arm and contains the killed flu virus. This vaccination is approved for everyone six months and older.
The high dose vaccine, which has been available since the 2010-2011 flu season, is an intramuscular vaccine that is injected into the upper arm and is recommended for people 65 and older.
The nasal spray flu vaccine is a vaccine that is only recommended for people between the ages of 2 and 49. Unless otherwise advised by your doctor, the traditional injection is recommended.
For more information about the 2012-2013 flu season and a thorough list of flu-related facts, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at www.cdc.gov/flu.
— Staff Writer Laura Edington can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at email@example.com.