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Flu Cases On The Increase: New Hanover Offering Vaccine

NEW HANOVER CTY - The flu has hit hard and early, and the rush is on to try to prevent the spread of the virus.  New Hanover County Health Department officials remind residents it is not too late to become vaccinated.
Already, 18 North Carolina residents have died from the flu this season.  Hospitals across the country are also seeing an influx of patients seeking treatment.  The Centers for Disease Control says the best prevention is to get a flu shot.
Over 5,600 vaccines have been administered by the health department since September.  An ample supply of flu vaccine, including nasal vaccine is still available.
This year’s vaccine itself is highly effective against the most current strain of the virus. Complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.
In addition to the vaccine, residents can help stop the spread of the flu by frequent hand washing, avoiding contact with sick people, and staying home from work or school if sick. The number to schedule an appointment with the health department flu clinic is 910-798-6646.  Walk ins appointments are also available between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm Mondays through Fridays.
According to State Health Director Laura Gerald, flu activity across the state is at the highest levels recorded in the past decade. “It is very unusual for us to see this many deaths so early in the flu season,” Dr. Gerald said. “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.”
Flu outbreaks have been reported in schools and long-term care facilities across the state. Although everyone is at risk, flu can be especially dangerous for people at high risk of complications, including pregnant women, people with chronic diseases, very young children and the elderly. Because it takes about two weeks for immunity to develop after vaccination, getting an immunization between now and the start of the New Year should provide protection when individuals go back to work or school. Flu vaccine is the safest and most effective way to protect against flu and is recommended for anyone over 6 months old. In addition to vaccination, Dr. Gerald recommends that you follow additional precautions to avoid spreading cold and flu to others:
• 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
Influenza A (H1N1), A (H3N2), and influenza B viruses are included in each year’s influenza vaccine. Getting a flu vaccine can protect against flu viruses that are the same or related to the viruses in the vaccine. Flu vaccines (the flu shot and the nasal-spray flu vaccine (LAIV)) cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine.