Health officials stress caution in midst of severe flu season

Some local pharmacies still offering vaccine
Jan. 18, 2013 @ 11:25 AM

The influenza season may have recently peaked, but health officials around the county are urging residents not to let down their guards.

Lee County Health Education Supervisor Sandra Boyd said the county health department ran out of flu vaccines this week, but she advised residents to seek out the vaccine as a preventive measure throughout the end of the flu season this winter.

This flu season, which peaked two weeks ago, has been considered one of the stronger seasons, she said.

If a person is feeling ill, they should immediately contact their primary care physician, Boyd said.

"Don't wait if you feel it about to come down," she said. "Try not to be out among the public, and get proper rest."

Some local pharmacies still have the flu shot available, and Lee County residents should take advantage of the vaccine, she said.

Dr. Ayaz Pathan, Central Carolina Hospital Chief of Emergency Medicine,  said he sees anywhere from six to 12 people with flu-related symptoms during one shift. The patients are typically the very young or old, he said.

"We have seen it harder than the previous year," Pathan said of the flu. "We have had a little bit of a lull in the past week or two, but it is hard to say if that is going to be sustained or if we will see a second peak."

Contacting a doctor within the first 24 to 48 hours of developing flu-like symptoms — like high fever, chills or coughing — is very important, he said. The medicine doctors can prescribe is only effective during that short window, he said, and then patients are left to tough it out.

If those infected begin to have difficulty breathing, they should get to the hospital, Pathan said.

"The important thing is if you have it, try to contain it," he said. "Don't go to work or school. Drink lots of fluids, and try to control your fever."

Central Carolina Hospital is also taking precaution to keep employees safe while in contact with the flu, said CCH Infection Preventionist Cynthia Sharpe.

"We are very proactive in our flu vaccination program," she said. "It is mandatory they participate, and we have 98 percent of our staff who have taken the flu vaccine."

The remaining 2 percent are required to wear masks at all times.

The hospital staff also encourages sick visitors to wear a surgical mask, and the hospital has a separate waiting room for patients with flu-like symptoms, she said.  

As of Jan. 10, 17 people have died from the flu in North Carolina, a majority more than 65 years of age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.