Flu deaths rise heading into peak season
Posted January 19
Raleigh, N.C. — The state came out with the latest flu statistics - for 'week 2' of this year.
The report shows a slight decrease in the number of reported flu-like illnesses since the week ending January 7. There were 3 new deaths, bringing the total to 13 flu-related deaths this season.
Local doctors' offices and hospital emergency rooms know that flu season is moving closer to its peak. University of North Carolina Hospitals are beginning to see an increase in visits for flu, too.
UNC Hospitals have seen an increase over the last three to four weeks, and around 10 percent of those people are going to the emergency room with influenza-like illnesses. About 5 to 10 percent of them have been sick enough to require admission to the ICU.
Infectious disease expert Dr. David Weber said UNC Hospitals has seen more than 100 cases of flu in the last four weeks.
Flu season's peak varies, but Weber said statistics remain generally consistent across the country.
"Overall, each year about 10 to 20 percent of the population will get flu," Weber said. "More than 200,000 people will be hospitalized, and in an average year, more than 10,000 to 20,0000 people will die."
Weber said even otherwise healthy individuals have been known to die from complications of the flu.
However, those most at risk are the very young, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems, such as people undergoing cancer treatments or people with HIV.
People with chronic illnesses — especially those with respiratory issues — pregnant woman and obese people are also at an elevated risk of coming down with the flu.
With the peak of the season nearing, though, everyone still has time get vaccinated.
It takes two weeks to develop a full level of immunity from the vaccine, but Weber expects an active season at least for another month.
The current vaccine is proving effective against this year's flu, Weber said. The flu has mostly two types of A strains and one B strain, and doctors' offices and hospitals are seeing mostly influenza A strains.
Doctors strongly recommend the flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older.
People can also take precautions to prevent catching the flu in the first place: Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Be cautious of publicly shared surfaces like door handles, office phones, ATM and elevator buttons. You should also stay at least six feet away from someone who is coughing and sneezing.
Flu symptoms can include a 100 degree body temperature, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, head and body aches, chills fatigue and nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.