Flu increasing in Rowan but no deaths

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Although the flu virus is widespread throughout Rowan County, there have been no flu-related deaths in the county this season, according to Nina Oliver, Interim Health Director for the county’s Health Department.
Positive cases of the flu have been “steadily increasing above normal baseline throughout most the flu season,” Novant Health’s Marketing and Public Relations Manager Falon Nye told the Post in an email.
Eleven North Carolinians died from influenza between Jan. 19 and 25, the highest total in a one-week span this season. These cases bring the total number of deaths for the season to 44.
“Right now it’s hitting more in the adult population,” Oliver said.
Nineteen adults between the ages of 25 and 29 have died, more than three times the amount of in the same age group during the entire flu season last year.
Fourteen people between the ages of 50 and 64 have died so far this year, and nine people over the age of 65 have passed away.
You don’t typically see this, especially deaths,” Oliver said.
She said the reason adults, particularly those between 25 and 29 years old, were more susceptible this year is because many choose not to get vaccinated.
Fewer children are getting sick, however.
“Parents are doing a very good job of getting their children vaccinated,” Oliver added.
“It’s not too late to get the flu shot,” said Teresa Casmus, a pharmacist at The Medicine Shoppe on West Innes St.
Flu vaccinations can be received at the health department, doctors offices and pharmacies, Oliver said.
The most prominent strain this year is the H1N1 virus, but because there are so many strains of the flu virus out there, getting vaccinated doesn’t mean you won’t get the flu, according to Casmus.
Oliver estimated that the flu shot gives you approximately a 65 to 75 percent protection from the virus, but that even those who do get the sick will have lessened symptoms.
“You’re immunizing yourself to protect yourself from a potential hospitalization or worse,” Casmus said.
Flu prevention, including washing hands with soap and water; avoiding touching the eyes, nose and mouth and getting enough sleep, is vital.
Unlike a cold, the flu onsets rapidly, usually within three to six hours. Symptoms typically include high fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches.
Stomach symptoms can also accompany the flu, but are most often caused by other viruses or bacteria.
Flu vaccines are recommended for everyone older than six months, especially young children and adults over 50, pregnant women, healthcare workers and people with chronic health conditions.
If you do get the flu, it’s important to see your physician within the first 48 hours so you can receive adequate treatment, Casmus said.
Doctors will often prescribe patients with antiviral medication, but these prescriptions must be started within two days of when symptoms begin.
Novant Health’s flu website encourages those with the flu to rest and drink plenty of liquids, as well as avoid tobacco products and alcohol. They can also take over-the-counter medicines to relieve flu symptoms.