The flu reaches widespread status in NC, CDC says

Health Alert

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – This is the season when sick calls start to spike and some of that is due to that thing we call the flu.

But, does that mean we’re in for a severe flu season?

Despite the government shutdown, the CDC is tracking flu cases nationally and says the flu continues to spread its way across North Carolina.

The flu has now reached what the agency says is widespread status in this state, so you’d think everyone would want to get the shot.

But Jack Krosner is one f those who won’t do that.

“Every year it seems it get the flu when I get there flu shot so I’m betting against it at this point,” says Krosner.

In the Triangle, hospitals report moderate numbers of flu cases.

UNC Hospitals has experienced 84 lab confirmed flu cases between now and September 2018.

WakeMed reports 177 positive flu cases between now and November 2018.

Across the state, other hospitals report similar findings.

“We’re seeing activity pick up especially along the eastern part of North Carolina,” says state influenza epidemiologist Anita Valiani.  “What that means is influenza illnesses in outpatient visits are inching up now.”

She says it takes about 2 weeks after you get the shot to build up immunity.

But, some who’ve had the shot had no luck with it.

Take Bob Steinbeiser.

“I’ve kinda already had it,” he said. That’s despite getting the shot. 

Michelle McLymore says she always gets the shot, too, but last year it didn’t work.

“On Jan. 21 last year, I had the flu,” she said.

For researchers, it’s an educated guess trying to develop a vaccine.

They don’t always choose the right strains, or the virus can mutate.  Also, the vaccine affects people differently.

“We don’t even know what the predominant circulating strain will be for this season,” says Valiani.

So far this year, she says the state has recorded 10 flu deaths.

The elderly and children are most at risk which is why experts recommend flu shots.

CBS Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook says, “Of the 185 kids who died last year—80 percent of them did not get the flu vaccine.”

With a flu season that’ll run till almost May in North Carolina, Valiani says right now it’s still too early to determine how effective this year’s flu vaccine will be.

As the flu season continues to ramp up, WakeMed says starting Jan. 11, it’ll put restrictions on visitors.

No children under the age of 12 will be allowed to visit patient care areas and no visitors who are experiencing fever, vomiting, diarrhea, cold or flu-like symptoms will be permitted to enter patient care areas.

At Duke Hospital, infectious disease specialist Dr. Cameron Wolfe says compared to last year, flu cases “Appear to be a relatively stable start for us so far.”

But he says, “It’s still early, and we often don’t see peaks of flu until later in the month of January or February.”

Although it’s not the flu, he says runny noses, fever, sneezing and coughing are also abounding.

“We have seen plenty of respiratory syncytial virus in the last few weeks, so it’s no surprise that folks feel like there’s been a lot of respiratory viral disease transmitting, because that is true,” says Wolfe.

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