Flu Season Hits Burke Early

As Printed in The News Herald Dec. 4, 2012

Cheryl Shuffler | [email protected]

MORGANTON, NC – It has arrived and earlier than usual. The flu has made its way to Burke County, with new cases being confirmed each day.

“It’s here, I’m afraid,” said Lisa Moore, health education supervisor for the Burke County Health Department.

While the health department doesn’t track the number of confirmed cases, one local doctor’s office, Burke Primary Care, has confirmed 50 cases at its office alone since the Thanksgiving holiday.

“We have seen an uptick in the last two weeks,” said Dr. Michael Gould with Burke Primary Care.

Gould said last year’s flu season was mild and the season before that didn’t hit hard until January and February.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms the trend and said nationally the flu season is off to its earliest start in nearly a decade. "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.

Gould and Moore said doctors use a nasal swab to test patients with flu symptoms and confirm they have influenza.

Gould said flu symptoms include a fever, cough, nasal congestion and — the main one that sets it apart from other illness — body aches. Some people also suffer vomiting and diarrhea.

The flu does not discriminate. Gould said his office is seeing all ages affected. Moore said she knows of one day care hit extremely hard and Milland Bradley, assistant superintendent for Burke County Public Schools, said the flu and another virus have hit the schools.

“I was hearing (Monday) from some teachers that absences have dramatically increased lately. Some were saying flu, and some were saying a virus that was putting people out for several days at a time with sinus, chest, aches, etc.” Flu symptoms last for about a week, and Gould said if you can get to a doctor within 48 hours of the first sign, the drug Tamiflu can help ease the symptoms and duration.

Gould and Moore both said you can still get the flu if you have had a flu shot, but it shouldn’t feel the effects for as long.

And it’s not too late to get vaccinated. It does take up to two weeks for the vaccine to take full effect. “Now’s the time to get it and have a merry Christmas and not be sick,” Moore said.

Sickness such as the flu spreads faster around the holidays because more people are traveling and are in large, confined groups, such as family gatherings, church events, parades and plays.

Gould said in addition to the immunization, the best defense is coughing into your elbow to keep your germs to yourself and washing your hands and using hand sanitizers to keep you from picking up other’s germs.

More than a third of Americans — 112 million — have been vaccinated against the flu, and the vaccine formulated for this year is well-matched to the strains of the virus seen so far, CDC officials said. Flu vaccinations are recommended for everyone 6 months or older.

On average, about 24,000 Americans die each flu season, according to the CDC.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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