Sampson health officials have joined many across the state in warning local residents about the dangers associated with the now widespread flu virus.
To date, one death related to the flu has been reported in Sampson County, according to numbers released from the Sampson County Health Department. Detailed information related to the death is unavailable due to confidentiality reasons.
The department of health defines a flu-related death as a “death resulting from a clinically compatible illness that was confirmed to be influenza by an appropriate laboratory or rapid diagnostic test with no period of complete recovery between the illness and death.”
Just last month, officials with Sampson Regional Medical Center imposed visitation restrictions until further notice due to the increased number of cases the hospital’s emergency room was treating.
“Sampson Regional Medical Center has seen more patients with the flu over the last couple of weeks, and it has continued this week,” Wanda Holden, RN, Infection Control Coordinator for SRMC, said.
According to national statistics, more than 6 million people have been treated for the flu virus since the season began last fall. North Carolina is among the 30 states nationwide that is reporting a widespread number of cases.
Although healthcare officials urge vaccination early in the flu season, it is not too late to get vaccinated now and reap the benefits from the vaccine.
“Flu will be circulating, and infection rates will likely remain high at least for the next several weeks,” State Epidemiologist Zack Moore, MD, MPH, said. “Getting vaccinated now is the best way to protect yourself and those you come in contact with.”
Local healthcare officials agree.
“While we are seeing individuals with the flu present at the hospital and medical practices, individuals still have time to get the shot,” Holden said. “In addition to getting the flu shot, respiratory hygiene and hand washing are the most important steps people can take to help prevent the spread of flu.”
As of Thursday, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services had reported a total of 35 deaths statewide related to the flu. Looking at the data, between Jan. 27-Feb. 2, six of those deaths occurred.
Earlier this year, the hospital began to see an increased number of flu-related visits to the emergency room and medical practices. Imposing the temporary visitation restrictions was a proactive measure in anticipation of the increased flu activity expected for Sampson County.
Those restriction are expected to remain in place through March.
Compared to last year, the number of flu-related deaths is down from 48, however nothing compared to the 2017-18 flu season when a reported 391 deaths were from the virus. This was the highest number of cases since 2009 when the state officials began tracking the number of yearly flu-related deaths.
Healthcare officials ask residents to decrease the chance of spreading germs related to the flu, RSV or other illnesses by avoiding close contact with those who are sick, washing hands often, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces on a regular bases and staying home if you become sick.
According to Holden, common symptoms of the flu are fever or feeling feverish, chills, body aches, sore throat, cough, runny nose, headache, fatigue and vomiting or diarrhea. Individuals exhibiting any of these symptoms should not visit the hospital until they have been free of any symptoms for 24 hours.
Getting vaccinated isn’t the only precaution to help prevent the spread of the flu. There are suggestions for helping contain the virus and keep it from spreading to others. Tips for helping prevent the spread of the virus include:
• Hand and respiratory hygiene is the next best step to preventing the spread of flu. Hand washing helps stop the spread of germs. It’s recommended that you wash often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
• It’s also important to remember to disinfect surfaces and objects that may come in contact with flu germs. In the home and workplace, disinfect phones, keyboards, door handles, and other commonly touched surfaces. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth to prevent the spread of germs.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick, and if you are sick, try to stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone. It’s also recommended that people wear a face mask to reduce spreading or catching germs.
• If you cough or sneeze, use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose, or direct your cough or sneeze into your elbow. This way, you are less likely to touch a surface and spread germs.
Health officials are urging those without the flu vaccination to get the shot as the virus is now widespread in 30 states, including North Carolina.
Copy editor Kristy D. Carter can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588.
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