Dare County Department of Health & Human Services informs residents that a potentially severe respiratory season is on the horizon. This past week, North Carolina announced the first pediatric death from flu this season and five adult deaths were reported. Emergency department visits for flu-like illness are nearly double the percentage of the past two years.
The best defense against serious illness from flu is the annual vaccine, available for everyone six months and older. Studies have shown that vaccines reduce the risk of flu-associated deaths by half in children with high-risk medical conditions and by two-thirds in healthy children. Vaccination can also make illness milder for those who do get the flu. Vaccines are available at area pharmacies, local healthcare providers, and Dare County Department of Health & Human Services.
Certain groups are at higher risk for serious illness from flu, including children younger than five, pregnant women, people over 65 and those with certain chronic medical conditions such as heart or lung disease. More than half of the children who die from flu have no known medical condition that would put them at higher risk.
In North Carolina, flu infections are most common from late fall to early spring with activity usually peaking in January or February. The following precautions should be taken to protect against the spread of flu and other viruses:
- Get your flu vaccine. Flu vaccines can be given at the same time as bivalent COVID-19 boosters for those who are eligible.
- Stay home from work or school when sick to avoid spreading infection to others.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then discard the tissue promptly.
- To layer up protection, people can practice the 3Ws — wearing a face covering over your nose and mouth, waiting 6 feet apart, and washing your hands often can help slow the spread of flu and other respiratory viruses.
- Individuals who feel ill should call ahead before going to a doctor’s office or urgent care to avoid exposing others.
Flu symptoms include:
- Cough and/or sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Headaches and/or body aches
- Nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea (most common in children)
Antiviral drugs are available and can help prevent flu infections from becoming more serious. Treatments work best if started soon after symptoms begin. If you feel sick, contact your doctor right away to see if you need treatment with a prescription antiviral drug. Treatment with a prescription antiviral drug is especially important for hospitalized patients, people with severe illness, and those who are at higher risk of serious flu illness based on their age or health.
Dare County Department of Health & Human Services offers flu vaccines at Manteo, Nags Head, and Frisco office locations. For more information, or to schedule an appointment for a flu shot, please call 252-475-5003.