As hospitalizations due to COVID-19 continue to rise in NC, flu cases remain low

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN)– As hospitalizations for COVID19 continues to increase across North Carolina, cases of the flu remain low.

On Tuesday, the state hit a record number of hospitalizations with 2,811 patients fighting COVID-19. 

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said the surge has her worried about hospital capacity and staffing across the state.

“They had certain COVID units.  Those units have become full.  Now they are converting other units to become COVID units as well,” she said.

Dr. Jessica Triche, president of the North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians says over the last two months, she’s seen a number of patients come into her clinic for upper respiratory issues.

“We test for both flu and COVID.  We’re seeing positive COVID, but we’re not seen any flu this year,” she said.

According to the most recent data from NCDHHS, during the week ending December 5, 1,298 specimens were sent to the state lab for testing.  Of those, one was positive for flu Type A.

To date, there have been 5,979 COVID-19 related deaths in North Carolina this year.  There’s be one reported flu death this season, according to NCDHHS. 

“This time last year I was probably testing five to seven people a day for the flu and getting a lot of positive,” said Triche.

According to state health data for the same week in 2019, more than 180 people were hospitalized with the flu.

For the same week in 2018, approximately 220 people were hospitalized with the flu.

According to state health data for the same week in 2017, approximately 260 people were hospitalized with the flu.

NCDHHS data shows that while the percentage of emergency room visits for the flu increased for the week ending December 5, it still sits at approximately one percent.  That is lower than the same time period for the past two years.

“People who are in the hospitals right now, and there are too many of them, they are in for COVID-19 they are not flu at this point,” said Triche.

Triche says while symptoms of COVID-19 and the flu may be similar, testing clearly differentiates which virus a person has.

One possible reason for the lower flu cases is that in addition to wearing masks and social distancing, Triche says more people are getting flu shots this season.

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