While a number of people look forward to fall and the subsequent holiday season, they don’t look forward to its companion season, flu season.
North Carolina reported 208 deaths from influenza between September 2018 and May 2019. Jackson County did not have any deaths from the flu in that time, Melissa McKnight, deputy health director Jackson County Department of Public Health, said.
McKnight did not have data for the number of cases of influenza in Jackson County.
“The flu is not a reportable disease and, therefore, is only tracked in sentinel sites,” she said. “Jackson County is not a sentinel site.”
Sentinel sites are communities where in-depth data is collected.
Flu virus can be spread year round, but it is seen most often during fall and winter with activity increasing in October and November and peaking between December and February. However, flu season can extend into May.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends vaccinations take place before flu activity begins and that healthcare providers continue to offer vaccines throughout flu season and encourage their patients to take the inoculation.
Getting vaccinated and getting vaccinated early is paramount.
“The best form of protection against the flu is vaccination,” McKnight said. “It’s also important to know that it takes about two weeks after vaccination for the antibodies that protect against the influenza virus infection to develop in the body, so it is best to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
Flu is spread through the air and through touch. When sick people cough, sneeze, or talk, it spreads the virus in the form of respiratory droplets, according to the CDC. People can also pick up the virus from contaminated surfaces or objects sick people have touched and then touching their own mouth or nose.
“Everyday preventative actions that can help protect against the flu include staying away from those who are sick and washing your hands frequently,” McKnight said.
The virus can run its course in a few days or last as long as two weeks, but some people may become severely ill developing complications such as pneumonia.
Those most at risk of complications are pregnant women, young children, adults 65 years of age and older, and people with medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease.
If caught early, antiviral drugs can be prescribed to reduce symptoms and shorten the length of illness. Antivirals may also prevent complications like pneumonia.
The CDC recommends everyone six months and older receive a flu vaccine.
Vaccines are improved yearly to combat new strains of the virus.
“The composition of U.S. flu vaccines is reviewed annually and updated as needed to match circulating flu viruses,” the CDC said. “Flu vaccines protect against the three or four viruses, depending on the vaccine, that research suggests will be most common.”
Children six months through eight years of age should receive two doses. The first dose should be administered as soon as vaccines become available and the second should be given in at least four weeks and by the end of October.
Jackson County Department of Public Health began providing flu vaccines on Oct. 1. The clinic is open Monday-Friday from 8:30-11:30 a.m. and 1-4:30 p.m.
Immunization costs range from $35 to $60, depending on the type of vaccine. No appointment is necessary, and most insurance is accepted.
Many pharmacies, urgent care centers and primary care physicians offer flu vaccines as well.
• A fever of 100.4F/38C degrees or higher or feeling feverish
(not every one with the flu has a fever).
• A cough and/or sore throat.
• A runny or stuffy nose.
• Headaches and/or body aches.
• Nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea (most common in children).