Flu season arrives earlier this year

Dec. 06, 2012 @ 05:40 AM

FOREST CITY — Health officials have confirmed that flu season in the United States is off to its earliest start in almost 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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the Associated Press, the last time a conventional flu season started this early was the winter of 2003-04, which proved to be one of the most lethal seasons in the past 35 years, with more than 48,000 deaths. The dominant type of flu back then was the same one seen this year.

Rutherford Regional Health System and local pharmacies have already seen several cases and are encouraging community members to take the proper precautions to protect themselves.

"Prior to last Friday, we had only filled one prescription for Tamiflu back in October, but since Friday night we have probably done at least 18 to 20. We have had about four or five each day since then," said Kale England, pharmacist from Hardin's Drug Store in Forest City. "From what I am hearing, all of the other pharmacies seem to be swamped as well. It all seemed to really hit over the weekend, all at one time and out of the blue. As a general rule, it usually starts in December but not quite this big. It usually starts slow in December and then we have a lot more cases in January and February. It really got an early jump this year."

According to Rutherford Regional Health System Marketing Assistant Allison Flynn, Rutherford County is not under any flu precautions at this time. However they have seen several cases.

"We have had three omitted with the flu, and we have seen many through the Emergency Department and several through the clinic at Walmart," Flynn said.

The NC Department of Health and Human Services reports that influenza has been associated with two deaths in the state since November 25. Symptoms include fever, coughing, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches and body aches, chills and fatigue.

Flynn says that the best ways to prevent the disease is by taking several simple steps to protect yourself.

"Washing your hands is very important. If your hands are visibly dirty then you need to use soap and water. If you sing the Happy Birthday song in your head, then that is the correct length of time that you should wash them. If they are not dirty and cannot get to a sink, then alcohol foam and hand sanitizer are good," Flynn said. "You should also be drinking plenty of water and eating nutritious fruits and vegetables. If you have a cold and are running a fever, do not go out and spread it. Cough and sneeze into your sleeve."

The most important way to prevent yourself from catching influenza is to get a flu shot. According to the Center for Disease Control, An estimated 112 million Americans have been vaccinated so far. Flu vaccinations are recommended for everyone 6 months or older.

"You can get a flu vaccine at the Walmart Clinic if you don't want to get a doctor's appointment. You can be tested for the flu and get a flu shot there. If you have insurance the copay should cover it. Without insurance, it will be $69," Flynn said.

If you do still catch the disease Angela Harrill, Public Health Nurse from Rutherford Health Department, says that along with Tamiflu which is prescribed by many doctors, the best to get over it is to rest and treat the symptoms.

"Get plenty of rest, make sure you take fever medications and drink plenty of fluids. You can take Tylenol and Ibuprofen for aches and the fever," Harrill said.