Several cases of this year’s flu have been confirmed in Surry County, and local and state officials are warning that this year’s flu is coming on earlier, and is a nasty strain.
But there is good news.
According to officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu vaccine being distributed this year is well-matched to handle the virus.
According to Jessica Jessup, R.N., the assistant director of nursing for the Surry County Health and Nutrition Center, cases have been reported in the county.
“Our pediatrics clinic has had a number of cases already this year,” Jessup said. “And in recent weeks, flu activity in North Carolina has gone from sporadic to regional, meaning that flu is beginning to spread across the state.”
Jessup said the county’s Health and Nutrition Center is using state-supplied free vaccines, and is trying to get more in preparation for a rise in cases.
“Anyone over six months of age should receive the vaccine and it’s especially important for high-risk people like the young, old, pregnant women and people with chronic diseases,” she said.
Across the state there have been three deaths already this year attributed to the flu or complications from the flu, with the two most recent located in nearby Forsyth County.
Earlier this week health officials said suspected cases of the flu have jumped in five Southern states, with the strain involved tending to make people more ill than other types.
“It looks like it’s shaping up to be a bad flu season, but only time will tell,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC.
Higher-than-normal reports of the flu have been recorded in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas, according to the CDC.
Normally, a rise in the reported cases of flu doesn’t happen until after Christmas. The CDC reports that flu-related hospitalizations are also on the rise.
The annual flu outbreak generally peaks in mid-winter, and symptoms can include fever, cough, runny nose, head and body aches and fatigue. Some people infected can also suffer from vomiting and diarrhea, and the flu can develop into pneumonia or other serious conditions.
Thomas Williams, a spokesman for the county’s Health and Nutrition Center, said common sense can help prevent its spread.
“If you get the flu and you’re sick, one of the best things you can do is stay home to help prevent its spread,” he said, noting that people with the flu don’t want to go out anyway.
“Getting the flu can give you that feeling of being knocked off your feet,” he said. “So just rest.”
Williams said the flu can typically take five to seven days before going away, so rest is important.
But there are things Surry County residents can do to lessen their chances of contracting the flu.
Both local and federal officials say the single best way to prevent contracting the flu is to get an annual flu vaccination.
“That’s definitely the best way to prevent it from spreading,” Jessup said.
The Health and Nutrition Center is offering free flu vaccines for county residents on a first-come, first-served basis.
Residents can receive a flu shot between 8:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., or from 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., according to Jessup.
Reach Keith Strange at email@example.com or 719-1929.