Flu cases continue to rise
RUTHERFORDTON — As a result of the latest North Carolina State Influenza Surveillance Report, Rutherford Regional Health System (RRHS) is continuing its visitation restriction.
The latest report, issued Thursday, indicated that the state is currently experiencing 10.7 percent of the population reporting flu-like illnesses.
Earlier this week, Rhonda Lovelace, immunization coordinator at the Rutherford County Health Department, said that the county is experiencing flu cases, however the exact number is not known.
"We have had, but since it is not a reportable communicable disease, we don't have exact numbers," Lovelace said.
As of December, North Carolina had seen 12 deaths attributed to flu-like illnesses.
Officials at RRHS began the restrictive visiting in December when flu-like illnesses across the state topped 6 percent. The hospital's policy is to enact the restrictions at that point and, Friday, officials said that the restrictions will continue.
Over the last five weeks, RRHS safety officials said that the number of cases across the state have increased 2.3 percent to its current figure.
“This is one of the most significant flu seasons we have experienced in some time,” said Karen Smith, RRHS infection prevention director, in a statement. Restricting visitation, she added, helps to protect those who are most vulnerable to contracting flu-like illness.
The hospital restrictions include:
• No children under the age of 12 should visit the hospital at all;
• Only immediate family should visit patients at the hospital, and;
• Any visitor with signs and symptoms of illness should not visit the hospital at all.
Hospital officials said that this is the earliest spike in flu-like cases in over a decade. The traditional time for a spike is in February.
Lovelace said that, while there are no exact figures on the number of cases in Rutherford County, there is no way of telling if the number of cases have already peaked.
"We hope that it has come early and we have already peaked, but we really don't know," Lovelace said.
North Carolina State Health Director Laura Gerald said that it was unusual to see the number of deaths the state has seen this early in the flu season, but that anyone who has not been vaccinated for the flu strain should do so as soon as possible.
“This year’s vaccine is well-matched to the strains of flu we are seeing in North Carolina so we strongly recommend that anyone over 6 months old be vaccinated," Gerald said, in a statement.
Other precautions that people can do to avoid spreading the cold or flu include:
• stay home when you are sick;
• wash your hands regularly with soap and water;
• cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then discard the tissue promptly;
• avoid close contact with others if you think you may have flu symptoms, and;
• seeing your doctor if you are very ill.
To receive additional information about obtaining the flu vaccine, you can contact the Rutherford County Heath Department at 828-287-6101.
RRHS media relations and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services contributed to this report