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30 New Flu Deaths Reported Across State

We are entering the heart of flu season across the Tar Heel state, and this year’s virus is proving difficult to fight.

The most recent numbers from state health officials show a staggering increase in flu deaths. 30 new flu-related deaths were reported across North Carolina for the week ending January 3. That brings the total number of deaths related to influenza to 54, since early October. Last flu season saw 107 deaths in the state.

Earlier this week, officials with the Department of Health and Human Services Division of Public Heath gave an update on the severity of the flu this season. State Epidemiologist Dr. Megan Davies says they began to see widespread flu occurrences in mid-November, with a sharp increase in mid-December.

“Flu activity has been more intense this year, compared with recent seasons,” she says, “as measured by visits to emergency departments and doctor’s offices for flu-like illness.”

Davies says the main strain, to this point, has been H3N2, which is a strain of the virus that tends to cause more severe illness in the elderly.

“About two-thirds of the H3N2 that is circulating,” she says, “has not been well matched to the vaccine, unfortunately.”

Officials are still encouraging North Carolinians to get the flu shot because different strains of the virus may become prominent later in the season.

Other treatments are available, including anti-viral drugs. But not all patients will require these medications, according to Dr. Davies.

“The people who most need these medications are people who are at high risk for influenza complications,” she says. That group includes the elderly, young children, pregnant women, and people with medical conditions including asthma and heart disease.

Dr. Thomas Moore says the flu season typically has a standard length, regardless of when that season starts.

“In general, once they start, widespread flu activity lasts on the order of three months,” he says.

Moore adds that if children begin showing symptoms of the flu, keeping them home from school can help stop the spread of the virus.

“Children with fever should not be going to school,” he says. “And they should be kept home until they’ve been without fever for at least 24 hours, without taking Tylenol or ibuprofen.”

As we expect the flu to remain intense over the next several weeks, there are every-day steps to help lower your chance of contracting the virus: staying away from those who are sick, increased hand washing with soap and warm water, and staying home from school or work if you are showing symptoms.

http://chapelboro.com/news/health/30-new-flu-deaths-reported-across-state/

A Spike in Flu Activity is Causing Restrictions for Visitors at Local Hospitals

We are entering the heart of flu season across the Tar Heel state, and it looks like this year’s version of the virus is particularly dangerous. That has caused some hospital systems to set limits on patient visitation.

The Durham VA Medical Center is the latest to add their name to the growing list of medical service providers placing restrictions on visitors during particularly heavy portions of the flu season.

Duke Medicine and the UNC Healthcare system have also placed restrictions on visitors, over the past few weeks.

In all of these cases, the restrictions are aimed at slowing the spread of influenza.

UNC Healthcare has stopped visitation from children under age 12 to any inpatient care unit.

At Duke University Health System Hospitals, children under 18 are only permitted to visit hospitals or wards when there has been prior approval and only in special circumstances. Patients at Duke Hospitals may also receive no more than two adult visitors at one time.

The Durham VA has also restricted visitation for anyone under the age of 18.

Anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms is also being restricted from visiting patients at all of the aforementioned healthcare facilities.

And if you are experiencing symptoms associated with influenza – including coughing, sneezing, runny nose, or a fever – you are being encouraged to contact a primary care doctor for an over-the-phone evaluation before visiting the hospital for treatment.

The flu has been particularly dangerous across North Carolina recently. During the 2013 – 2014 flu season, 107 North Carolinians died from flu-related illnesses, according to state health officials.

This season is shaping up to be just as dangerous. The latest numbers from the State Department of Health and Human Services report there have been 17 flu-related deaths since early October. That includes a spike in the last week of reporting with nine deaths the week ending December 27.

The flu vaccine has also been a major topic of debate this year, because the main strand of influenza was not covered by the shot.

You can still take measures to protect yourself from the flu. Doctors are still encouraging getting the flu shot, if you have not. While it does not guarantee you will not come down with the virus, it does offer a higher level of protection than avoiding the shot. Officials are also encouraging you to increase hand washing with soap and warm water. And if you do feel that you are developing symptoms of the flu, you are encouraged to limit contact with the general public, rest, remain hydrated, and contact your primary care physician.

http://chapelboro.com/news/health/spike-flu-activity-causing-restrictions-visitors-local-hospitals/

Four New Flu Deaths In NC Last Week, Three Additional Found

Four people died from the flu last week and three additional flu deaths from previous weeks have been discovered, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

At the last report, 74 people had been killed by the flu in North Carolina this flu season. The total is now up to 81, which is 22 more than last season’s total of 59.

Four deaths is the lowest reported total since the first full week in January showing a continued downward trend since the peak of 12 in late January. This time period also marked just the second week since January 12 that a pediatric death has not been reported.

To see more statistics of flu-reported deaths in North Carolina, click here.

http://chapelboro.com/news/health/four-new-flu-deaths-nc-last-week-three-additional-found/

NC Flu Death Toll Climbs To 74

Eight more people died from flu-related complications last week in North Carolina, according to figures released Thursday by the State Department of Health and Human Services.

Seventy four people in total have died of influenza statewide since flu season began in October of last year.

Typical seasonal flus tend to impact very young children with underdeveloped immune systems or the elderly who have weakened immune systems.

But for the 2013-2014 flu season, 30 of the total number of deaths have occurred among adults aged 25 to 49, followed by people aged 50 to 64, with 24 deaths.

One infant and two children between ages 5 and 17 have died as well.

The H1N1 strain of flu, also known as the Swine Flu, has caused a majority of deaths in the state.

Health experts warn that the number of flu cases typically increases in January and February, though deaths were reported as late as May in 2013.

The best way to prevent against the flu is aggressive hand washing and getting the flu vaccine.

It is not too late for people to get their annual flu shot, but it does take two weeks after inoculation for the antibodies to develop in your body and become effective. The Center for Disease Control recommends that people six months and older get vaccinated for the flu.

The antiviral medication TAMIFLU® can reduce the severity and duration of symptoms if you do come down with the flu.

The flu vaccine is offered at the Orange County Health Department. To find other locations where the vaccine is administered, click here.

http://chapelboro.com/news/health/nc-flu-death-toll-climbs-74/

Flu Deaths Reach 64 in North Carolina

NORTH CAROLINA – State health officials reported Friday that seven more people died last week from flu complications, bringing the total number to 64.

Judy Butler, Community Health Services Supervisor for the Orange County Health Department, acknowledges it’s been a bad year for the flu in North Carolina, the second-worst in recent memory (107 flu deaths were reported during the swine flu outbreak of 2009-10).

“It looks like from the number of people who were being seen by medical providers for flu-like illnesses, that we are still above where we have been some years at this time,” says Butler.

She confirms the state’s number – 64 North Carolinians have died from flu complications so far this year, as of February 8.

Last year, the state reported 59 deaths for the whole season. The flu season typically lasts from November through March.

According to Butler, no Orange County residents are reported to have died of flu this year. She says that while some deaths occurred at UNC Hospitals, those were patients that were transferred from other counties.

Contrary to what a lot of people may believe, extreme weather has little to do with the spread of the flu. But it can be a small factor.

“If someone had had an extreme weather exposure to the point that their immune system was weakened, it would make them more susceptible,” Butler says. “I would not say that the weather contributed beyond the point that you would have had people inside, and closer in proximity to each other.”

The flu season peaks at different times, and this year it’s peaking early. In the meantime Butler says it’s never too late to get a flu shot.

“They’ll be available all the way until they expire, which will be in June,” she says.

She adds that even though some people get the shot and still get sick, that’s no reason to dismiss vaccines.

“Flu vaccine’s not 100 percent effective,” says Butler. “But it’s the best thing there is.”

Plus, she says, those who were vaccinated and got the flu anyway can take heart in knowing that, without the vaccine, it could have been a lot worse.

http://chapelboro.com/news/health/flu-deaths-reach-64-north-carolina/

NC Flu Deaths Climb To 56

NORTH CAROLINA – Ten more people died from the flu in North Carolina last week, according to figures released Thursday by the State Department of Health and Human Services.

Fifty-six people in total have died of the influenza-related complications statewide since flu season began in October of last year.

DHHS reported 12 deaths for the week of January 19 through January 25, which is the highest weekly total so far.

Typical seasonal flus tend to impact very young children with underdeveloped immune systems or the elderly who have weakened immune systems.

But for the 2013-2014 flu season, 22 of the total number of deaths have occurred among adults aged 25 to 49, followed by people aged 50 to 64, with 19 deaths.

One infant and two children between ages 5 and 17 have died as well.

The H1N1 strain of flu, also known as the Swine Flu, has caused a majority of deaths in the state.

Health experts warn that the number of flu cases typically increases in January and February, though deaths were reported as late as May in 2013.

The best way to prevent against the flu is aggressive hand washing and getting the flu vaccine.

It is not too late for people to get their annual flu shot, but it does take two weeks after inoculation for the antibodies to develop in your body and become effective. The Center for Disease Control recommends that people six months and older get vaccinated for the flu.

The antiviral medication TAMIFLU® can reduce the severity and duration of symptoms if you do come down with the flu.

The flu vaccine is offered at the Orange County Health Department. To find other locations where the vaccine is administered, click here.

http://chapelboro.com/news/health/nc-flu-deaths-climb-56/

Highest Weekly Flu Death Total Reported In NC, Death Toll Rises To 44

ORANGE COUNTY – Eleven people have died from flu-related complications last week in North Carolina, the highest weekly total so far this flu season, according to figures released Thursday from the State Department of Health and Human Services.

Forty-four people in the State have died from influenza since flu season began in October of last year.

Pam McCall, Director of Personal Health Services for the Orange County Health Department, said peak flu season is upon us.

“This does correlate with what it was like last year. This past week in 2013 also registered the highest number of flu deaths [so far for the 2012-2013 flu season].”

The number of cases typically increases in January and February, though she added that in 2013, there were flu deaths reported as late as May.

McCall added that the number of deaths is not unusual at this stage of the flu season.

“Last year at this time, there were 41 total deaths reported, and right now, we are at 44 so it is a little higher. This flu season, the difference is the age ranges [who are being affected]. Last year, the older adults made up a majority of the flu deaths. This year, it is in that 25-64 age range.”

Typical seasonal flus tend to impact very young children with underdeveloped immune systems or the elderly who have weakened immune systems.

But for the 2013-2014 flu season, 19 of the total number of deaths have occurred among adults aged 25 to 49, followed by people aged 50 to 64, with 14 deaths.

Some good news is that the number of new flu cases reported by UNC Hospitals has dropped significantly.

For the week of January 19 through January 25, they were 41 lab-confirmed influenza cases compared to 82 the preceding week.

“That too seems to indicate that we have reached the peak of the season so far since we have had a dramatic drop at UNC Hospitals, at least in the number of cases. It does look like the numbers are going down overall in the State,” she said.

It is not too late for people to get their annual flu shot, but McCall said it does take two weeks after inoculation for the antibodies to develop in your body and become effective. The Center for Disease Control recommends that people six months and older get vaccinated for the flu.

McCall said if you do come down with the flu, the antiviral medication TAMIFLU® can reduce the severity and duration of symptoms.

The flu vaccine is offered at the Orange County Health Department. To find other locations where the vaccine is administered, click here.


http://chapelboro.com/news/health/highest-weekly-flu-death-total-reported-nc-death-toll-rises-44/

NC Deaths Due To Flu Increase 33

CHAPEL HILL – Five more deaths due to the flu were reported last week, bringing the total number of deaths in North Carolina to at least 33, according to figures released Thursday by the State Department of Health and Human Services.

The death of a child due to the flu was reported in Alamance County Wednesday, but was not included in the numbers released this week.  One other child died earlier this month due to influenza.

The Center for Disease Control recommends that people six months and older get vaccinated for the flu.

Pam McCall, Director of Personal Health Services for the Orange County Health Department, said that it is particularly important that families with infants get the flu vaccine to keep the virus from spreading to the child. She recommended that pregnant women also get vaccinated.

“Once those antibodies develop in the women’s system, she passed them along to her baby so that when the baby is born, he or she will have some of what they call passive antibodies or passive immunity to the flu,” McCall said. “That will help protect them to a certain degree even though they [the infant] can’t get the vaccine.”

McCall said that the number of deaths is not unusual at this stage of the flu season.

“Last year at this time the total number of deaths was 38, so we are around the same number.”

Typical seasonal flus tend to impact very young children with underdeveloped immune systems or the elderly who have weakened immune systems.

But for the 2013-2014 flu season, 15 of the total number of deaths have occurred among adults aged 25 to 49. The majority of those flu deaths were due to the H1N1 strain.

H1N1, which is also carried by pigs, caused a world-wide pandemic in 2009. McCall said it impacted younger people then as well.

“I am not sure why—I don’t think there is real clear information about why this particular virus [H1N1] affects younger people  more, but that does seem to be what happens.”

McCall said peak flu season is upon us. The number of cases typically increases in January and February, though she added that in 2013, there were flu deaths reported as late as May.

It is not too late for people to get their annual flu shot, but McCall said it does take two weeks after inoculation for the antibodies to develop in your body and become effective.

“I do have some good news—the vaccine closely matches the circulating virus including the H1N1. The message is still to get a flu vaccination.”

McCall said if you do come down with the flu, the antiviral medication TAMIFLU® can reduce the severity and duration of symptoms.

The flu vaccine is offered at the Orange County Health Department. To find other locations where the vaccine is administered, click here.

http://chapelboro.com/news/health/nc-deaths-due-flu-increase-33/

UNC Urging Students To Get Flu Shot

CHAPEL HILL – The H1N1 flu has caused an increase in flu-related deaths in North Carolina this year with only two of the 21 deceased older than 65, and UNC is reaching out to its students to urge preventative care.

Campus Health Services executive director Dr. Mary Covington says this is the same strand of flu that caused what was know as the swine flu epidemic in 2009.

“It seems that the younger folks maybe don’t have as much immunity to this virus, and so it’s particularly important that young and middle-aged people get vaccinated,” Dr. Covington says.

Campus Health Services flu shots are only open to students at the University. The clinic is open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday during the academic year.

However, Dr. Covington says now in the heart of flu season there are additional clinics open to all members of campus.

“We’re actually running six additional clinics in convenient locations on campus so that any faculty, staff, or student could go there and get a flu shot,” Dr. Covington says.

She says getting your flu shot is the most important preventative step during any flu season.

“That’s one of the most important preventative measures, and the other one is to wash your hands and practice good hand hygene,” Dr. Covington says.

UNC Campus Health Services is located in the James A. Taylor Building which sits between Kenan Football Stadium and UNC Hospitals.

For contact information, click here.

http://chapelboro.com/news/health/unc-urging-students-get-flu-shot/

Flu Season Putting Stress On Vaccine Supply

NORTH CAROLINA – Flu season is still a month or so away from its peak, and health officials are urging people to get their flu shots with the number of cases continuing to rise.

Because of the uptick in cases, all Duke University Health System hospitals began restricting visitation rules on Monday, including ambulatory surgery patients being limited to immediate family or designated care givers, 18 and older, those who are not sick with the flu, and patients can’t have more than two adult visitors at once.

The restrictions are only temporary; Duke put similar restrictions in place last year.

Health officials are still stressing to the public to get flu shots. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to kick in once administered. Some pharmacies have noticed an increase in demand and therefore a decrease in supply.

Eight people have died from the flu in North Carolina this season.

For information about Health Department clinics in Orange County, click here.

http://chapelboro.com/news/health/flu-season-putting-stress-vaccine-supply/