Protect Your Family From the Flu in North Carolina

Flu-related deaths in North Carolina this season reached 42 by the third week of January
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The recent news of a 6-year-old Cary girl dying from the flu shook the entire nation. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is encouraging North Carolina residents to get a flu shot, since flu season typically peaks during January and February.

A Spectrum News Feb. 8, 2018 report stated that since the start of the flu season Oct. 1, there have been 140 flu-related deaths in North Carolina. According to the North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians, this year’s flu epidemic rivals the history-making 2009 swine flu epidemic that killed roughly 4,000 and infected more than 22 million. As of Feb. 9, 53 children nationwide have died from flu this season, with four of those deaths in North Carolina.    

During October through May, the North Carolina Division of Public Health provides weekly updates on the spread of influenza in North Carolina. Since Oct. 1, 2017, there have been 42 flu-related deaths in North Carolina, including the 6-year-old Cary girl.

Treatment is most effective when started within 48 hours of illness onset. However, treatment of persons with prolonged or severe illness can reduce mortality and duration of hospitalization even when started more than 48 hours after onset of illness.

You still have time to get your flu shot, after which it takes about two weeks to develop immunity. Although some people worry about getting the shot, you cannot get flu from the flu shot, but you can protect those around you by getting it. Parents who get vaccinated help protect their children, and teachers who get the shot are helping shield their students from the illness.

Certain patients are at increased risk for influenza-related complications. These include:

  • Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years of age.
  • Adults 65 years of age or older.
  • Pregnant women and women up to two weeks postpartum.
  • American Indians and Alaska natives.
  • Persons with certain medical conditions including: Asthma; neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions; chronic lung diseases (such as COPD and cystic fibrosis); heart diseases (such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease); blood disorders (such as sickle cell disease); endocrine disorders (such as diabetes); kidney disorders; liver disorders; metabolic disorders (such as inherited metabolic disorders and mitochondrial disorders); and weakened immune system (such as people with HIV or AIDS, or cancer, or those on chronic steroids).
  • People younger than 19 years of age who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy.
  • People who are morbidly obese (body mass index, or BMI, of 40 or greater).

Patients should seek medical attention for any of the following:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen.
  • Sudden dizziness.
  • Confusion.
  • Severe or persistent vomiting.
  • Flu symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough.
  • In babies, bluish gray skin color, lack of responsiveness, or extreme irritation.

Treatment is recommended as early as possible for individuals with suspected or confirmed influenza who have any of the following:

  • Illness requiring hospitalization.
  • Progressive, severe, or complicated illness, regardless of previous health status.
  • Increased risk for severe disease (e.g. persons with certain chronic medical conditions, persons 65 or older, children younger than 2 years, and pregnant women).

If you or your child have flu-like symptoms, your best first line of defense is to consult your primary care doctor at the first sign of illness and non-emergent symptoms.

For more information on flu prevention and treatment and to find out where you can get a flu vaccination in your community, visit

Information provided by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services

This article was updated Feb. 12, 2018.



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