Fighting flu a community effort

Published 6:48 pm Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Last week, Vidant Health set restrictions on visitors to hospitals within its system. The reason is flu.

Flu season has come early this year. According to data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, during the week of Jan. 5, 2019, there were 2,776 patients with flu-like cases that sought a medical help in North Carolina. This year, the number is not quite double, but it is significantly higher: the week of Jan. 4, 2020, 4,836 patients sought treatment for flu-like cases.

A total of 21 of these patients in North Carolina have died; nine of those deaths have occurred since Dec. 29.

So, flu season is in full swing, and a recent investigation that looked at Louisiana’s unusually early start to flu season found that the culprit was influenza B viruses, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It also found that the median age of patients with influenza B virus infection was 6 years. A tweet on Wednesday by CDC reported five pediatric deaths this week due to flu, for a total of 32 pediatric deaths this season.

Children are particularly susceptible to influenza B viruses, according to the CDC, and this year’s flu vaccination is “not a good match.” It’s not ineffective, certainly — it has a 52% chance of preventing children from coming down with influenza B/Victoria.

It’s imperative, however, that everyone do their part to prevent the spread of flu in the community. According to the CDC, the flu virus can spread to others up to 6 feet away. Flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. Staying home and keeping your distance from others if you have flu is the best way to protect others.

If your child or grandchild contracts flu, know the warning signs of a severe flu infection, and seek immediate medical attention if your child shows any of these symptoms:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish lips or face
  • Ribs pulling in with each breath
  • Chest pain
  • Severe muscle pain (child refuses to walk)
  • Dehydration (no urine for eight hours, dry mouth, no tears when crying)
  • Not alert or interacting when awake
  • Seizures
  • Fever above 104 degrees
  • In children less than 12 weeks, any fever
  • Fever or cough that improve but then return or worsen
  • Worsening of chronic medical conditions

For adults with the flu, seek medical attention if you’re experiencing:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Persistent dizziness, confusion, inability to arouse
  • Seizures
  • Not urinating
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Severe weakness or unsteadiness
  • Fever or cough that improve but then return or worsen
  • Worsening of chronic medical conditions

It’s not too late to get the flu vaccine. While the 2018-19 flu season saw 58,000 flu hospitalizations and 3,500 flu deaths, research shows the flu vaccine prevented another 4.4 million illnesses that same year.

If you or your children do have flu symptoms, stay home and give yourself time to recover to prevent the virus from spreading to others.

Fighting flu is a community effort.