With flu cases on the rise, officials urge shots

Dec. 13, 2012 @ 05:00 AM

Flu season in Lee County has been worse than usual this year and, according to the county's lead health educator, the best way to avoid getting sick is to simply get a flu shot.

Sandra Boyd, health education supervisor for the Lee County Department of Public Health, said the vaccinations are far and away the best way to protect against the flu. Good hygiene practices, such as people washing their hands and faces and avoiding those who are sick, are also important, she said.

Those shots — which cost $25 — are available at local drug stores, as well as at the health department, which Boyd said accepts walk-ins but prefers appointments. She said nurses there give shots from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and from 8 a.m. to noon on Thursdays and Fridays. But if people do come down with the flu and then start exhibiting severe symptoms, Boyd said, a visit to a primary care doctor or the emergency room is highly advisable.

"If you have difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, sudden dizziness, vomiting, you need to seek emergency medical care as quickly as possible," she said.

The advice to get a flu shot was echoed by an expert from the state Department of Health, who added that because reported cases are at their highest point in nearly a decade, there's even more impetus to get the shot.

"We're seeing a lot more flu than we normally would for this time of year," Zack Moore, a medical epidemiologist with the North Carolina Division of Public Health, said in a press release from the North Carolina News Service on Monday. "It's probably the highest level of flu activity going back, at least to (the) 2003-2004 season."

Boyd said that Lee County has had a similarly high amount of cases, seeing a spike several months earlier than usual.

"Basically what we've seen is there has been a peak," she said. "It peaked around November and the (typical) peak season is February, so we won't know 'til then truly how bad it is."