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N.C. Experiencing Near-Record Flu Season

Doctors said the number of patients with flu symptoms has more than tripled since early January.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Public health officials said this flu season is the second-worst since North Carolina began keeping records in 2001.

The 76 monitored health-care providers reported the number of patients with influenza-like symptoms has more than tripled since early January – from 1.1 percent to 6.25 percent for the week ending Feb. 22.

At the beginning of February, 4.5 percent of patients reported flu-like symptoms, defined as a temperature of 100 degrees or greater and cough or sore throat.

North Carolina's record high flu season was recorded in mid-December 2003, when 7.7 percent of the patients reported influenza-like illness.

"I've seen a lot more cases this year than in the previous years that I can remember," Dr. Abid Shah, an emergency care physician with Franklin Regional Medical Center. More than a third of its patients in the past week had the flu, Shah said.

Officials with the state Department of Health and Human Services urged people to get the flu shot and do simple things to help prevent getting the flu.

"It's something you should have learned and probably have forgotten from kindergarten, but washing your hands constantly can prevent the spread of the flu and a whole lot of other diseases," Debbie Crane, a spokeswoman for the agency, said.

Workers said the ABC's of hand-washing are a top priority at the Appletree Daycare Center in Raleigh, which has been hit hard by the flu bug. Toys are also sanitized after children have played with them.

"Our children have been out for three to five days," Carolyn Diggers, with Appletree, said. "We've also had some teachers out in all our facilities."

The flu is widespread in 49 states, according to the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Two of the three strains in the flu vaccine distributed this year are ineffective against the virus circulating through the state, health officials said. Nationwide, the vaccine protects against 40 percent of the virus strains out this year, according to the CDC

Federal officials said the vaccine will be overhauled and the two ineffective strains replaced for the next round of the vaccine, set to be distributed in the fall. Doctors have to determine early in the year which strains to include long before they find out what flu strains appear in the winter.

Until then, doctors urge people to take precautions to prevent the spread of the flu:

  • Wash you hands, wash your hands, and wash your hands.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes.
  • If you have flu symptoms, seek medical care. There are prescription drugs that can relieve flu symptoms.
  • If you are sick, stay home.
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Beau Minnick, Reporter
Anne Johnson, Web Editor

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