9 more died last week of flu in NC; doctors warn to maintain concern, protect yourself
Posted January 30, 2020 1:33 p.m. EST
Updated January 30, 2020 10:38 p.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — Nine people died of the flu in North Carolina in the week that ended Saturday, bringing the total so far this season to 54.
While a lot of international attention has been focused on the burgeoning coronavirus outbreak that originated in China, the flu sickens millions each winter in the United States.
As of Thursday morning, the U.S. had six confirmed cases of coronavirus: two in Illinois, two in California, one in Arizona and one in Washington state.
The illnesses have similar symptoms, according to Andreas Linke, physician assistant for FastMed clinics in Raleigh.
"Presentation will be pretty similar with all of the above – runny nose, cough, sneezing and then chest congestion to follow. It is almost indistinguishable at early onset. It's later that it kind of separates itself," he said.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu was "widespread" in just about every state as January came to an end.
The CDC estimates that, so far this season, there have been at least 15 million flu illnesses, 140,000 hospitalizations and 8,200 deaths from flu.
But the peak of flu season may have passed. "Flu activity is likely to decrease over the next few weeks but remain elevated through February," according to the CDC flu forecast.
The CDC recommends flu vaccinations for everyone 6 months of age and older.
For those who have been diagnosed with the flu, CDC guidelines say patients should:
- Stay home when sick until fever-free for at least 24 hours.
- Wash hands frequently, preferably with soap and water.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then discard the tissue promptly.
To stay healthy, Linke suggested common-sense steps that work to prevent the spread of flu, coronavirus or the common cold.
"Washing your hands, when you cough, cover with the corner of your elbow and not with your hand ... as well as using the masks," he said.
"This coronavirus – much like the flu and other upper respiratory infections – can spread through air droplets, so the mask definitely helps if you're in a scenario where you are exposed to someone that is sick. Wear a mask, and wash your hands often."