The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is reporting the state’s first death from flu for the 2015-2016 influenza season. An adult in the western region of the state died last week of complications from an influenza infection. (To protect the family’s privacy, the person’s hometown, county, age and gender are not being released.)
“We extend our deepest sympathies to the family,” said Acting State Health Director Dr. Megan Davies. “We hope that by making people aware of this unfortunate case we will remind everyone that flu can be a serious disease and encourage people to protect themselves and their loved ones by getting vaccinated.” Flu shots are now available at the Forsyth County Health Department (see below).
During the past 2014 – 2015 season, North Carolina recorded its highest number of flu-associated deaths in the past six years. This is a reminder that flu can be a serious illness, especially for adults over 65, children under five, pregnant women and those with certain medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease. Children over 6 months of age can get the vaccine.
“”It’s not too early,” said Dr. Davies, “the last three flu seasons have begun early in North Carolina, so we don’t want people to wait too long.” She continued, “Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and your family from getting the flu. This year’s flu vaccines protect against the H1N1 virus and other flu strains that are expected to be in our state during the coming season.”
In addition to vaccination, DHHS encourages everyone to use precautions to protect against the spread of flu and other viruses:
- Wash hands frequently, preferably with soap and water or an approved hand sanitizer
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then discard the tissue promptly
- If you are sick with flu, stay home until you have been fever free for at least 24 hours
Influenza (the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Some people — such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions — are at high risk for serious flu complications. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated each year.
Seasonal influenza vaccine must be changed each year as the viruses naturally change over time. To avoid catching the flu, get vaccinated each year and practice good hand hygiene. To avoid giving the flu to others, stay home when you are sick, cough or sneeze into tissues and discard them properly, and wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an approved hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. If you do become sick with the flu, there are antiviral medications you can speak about with your doctor.
Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines (pills, liquid, an inhaled powder, or an intravenous solution) that fight against the flu in your body. They are not sold over-the-counter, but are available with a prescription from your doctor or health care provider. When used for treatment in someone who has been confirmed to have the flu, antiviral drugs can lessen symptoms and shorten the time of the illness by 1 or 2 days. They also can prevent serious flu complications, like pneumonia, so for people with a high risk medical condition, treatment with an antiviral drug can mean the difference between having milder illness instead of very serious illness that could result in a hospital stay.
Flu symptoms include:
- A 100 degree F or higher fever or feeling feverish (not everyone with the flu has a fever)
- A cough and/or sore throat
- A runny or stuffy nose
- Headaches and/or body aches
- Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea (most common in children)
For resources on how to prepare your business or place of work for the flu, view this flyer: toolkit_seasonal_flu_for_businesses_and_employers
Flu shots will be given in Clinic 3 of the health department at 799 N. Highland Avenue, Winston-Salem during the following hours:
Monday, Tuesday, & Wednesday 8:30am – 3:45pm
Thursday 9:30am – 6:45pm
Friday 8:30am – 11:45am
Clinic 3 is a walk-in clinic, appointments are not necessary.