by Jackson Sveen

HUNTERSVILLE – Flu season is here and hospitals around the country are seeing higher than usual numbers of cases being reported for this time of year.

According to the N.C. State Health Director Laura Gerald, flu activity across the state is at the highest levels recorded in the past decade.

“There was a slight dip in the numbers last week,” said N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Web Manager Mark Van Sciver, “But we don’t know if that is a trend or a slight bump.”

Van Sciver said the unusual aspect of this year’s flu season is that it came so early. Normally, the flu season doesn’t peak until January, but there were numerous cases reported as early as November.

The state Department of Health and Human Services has recorded 17 influenza-associated deaths this season in our state. Of those deaths, 13 were ages 65 and older, two were between the ages of 25-49, and the other two were 50-64.

North Carolina is one of 47 states reporting widespread flu activity; meaning laboratory-confirmed influenza is in at least half the regions of the state.

All 100 counties have reported cases of influenza.

To reduce the spread of the illness, many hospitals are restricting visiting hours.

Presbyterian Hospital Huntersville is not implementing visitor restrictions now, but may choose to do so if there is an increase in rates or if officials believe there is an issue with the health and safety of patients.

“Based on our assessment … Presbyterian Healthcare does not believe that we need to implement visitor restrictions beyond the high-risk areas of the neonatal intensive care unit, pediatric intensive care unit and emergency department,” said Robin Baltimore, Presbyterian’s manager of public relations and media.

While the cold and flu share many of the same symptoms, there is a big difference in their severity.

Both are a respiratory illness, but the common cold is milder than the flu.

Presbyterian Hospital Huntersville compiled a tip list to help people determine whether they’re dealing with the common cold or the flu.

Flu facts

• Symptoms may include fever, body aches, fatigue and cough.

• Most recover within a few days to just under 2 weeks.

• Older and younger populations are at higher risk for developing serious complications from the flu.

• Symptoms start from 1-4 days after the virus enters the body.

• Adults can infect others one day before symptoms develop and 5-7 days after getting sick.

• Children can pass the virus on for more than one week.

• You can be infected with the virus without symptoms and still spread it to others.

How does the flu spread?

• Hand to hand contact.

• Touching a surface with live flu germs on it.

• Sharing utensils with someone who is infected.

• By coughing or sneezing. Germs can spread as far as 6 feet and can be inhaled by those nearby.

What if I get the flu?

• Use over-the-counter medications for comfort measures.

• Decongestants can be used but not for more than five days.

• Get plenty of rest, drink fluids and allow yourself time to recover.

Call your doctor if…

• After a few days your symptoms worsen.

• Fever returns or lasts more than three days.

• You have trouble breathing or develop wheezing.

• You have vomiting and cannot keep fluids down.

Flu Prevention

• Get your flu shot.

• If you do not want the shot, ask about the nasal mist.

• Cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze.

• Dispose of tissues after use.

• Wash your hands often.

• Avoid contact with the moist areas of the face: mouth, eyes, and nose.

• Avoid close contact with sick people.

• Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone.