Durham residents urged to get flu shots as N.C. deaths mount

Jan. 08, 2014 @ 05:52 PM

Durham health officials are stepping up calls for residents to get flu shots as related deaths mount in North Carolina.

So far, 13 deaths in the state have been attributed to the flu this season.

The state doesn’t identify where the deaths occurred, but officials said some patients had underlying health conditions and had not received a flu shot.

Five deaths occurred between Dec. 22 and Dec. 28.

All but one person was under 65. Seven were between 25 and 49; five were between 50 and 64.

Durham health officials said they’ve seen an uptick this week in people coming to the health department for flu shots.

Meanwhile, Duke University Health Systems and UNC Health Care in Chapel Hill have limited visitors until the flu abates.

According to a news release this week from the Durham County Department of Public Health, the flu is widespread in Durham and throughout the state, although exact numbers are unavailable.

“We encourage all of our residents to get their flu vaccinations, but we want to urge those who are at the greatest risk for developing complications from the flu to be vaccinated as soon as possible,” Dr. Arlene Seña, the department’s medical director, said.

Children under 2, pregnant women, senior citizens and residents with conditions such as asthma, arthritis, lupus, diabetes, cancer, HIV/AIDS, heart or kidney disease or morbid obesity are at greater risk, she said.

People who develop flu-like symptoms are urged to contact their provider to have anti-viral medications prescribed. The drugs can reduce the severity and duration of symptoms.

Flu symptoms include:

- Fever.

- Coughing, sore throat, or both.

- Runny or stuffy nose.

- Headaches, body aches, or both.

- Chills.

- Fatigue.

In the past, the state’s flu season has peaked in late January to mid-February, so it’s not too late to get vaccinated, Seña said.

It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop that protect against the flu virus.

To avoid getting sick, health officials offer this advice:

- Get vaccinated.

- Wash your hands often with soap and water.

- Use alcohol-based hand cleaners.

- Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth.

- Avoid close contact with sick people.

Vaccinations are available at the Durham County Department of Public Health daily from 8:30 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 4 p.m. in Lobby 7 in the Human Services Building at 414 E. Main St.