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DHHS says flu is common, coronavirus not

Each year, winter spawns an onslaught of illnesses ranging from the common cold to various and sundry “bugs,” including various strains of the flu.

For the current flu season, defined by the Center for Disease Control as roughly from October to May, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reports that outpatient visits for “ILI” (influenza-like illnesses) had increased slightly (approximately one-half of 1 percent) statewide between Jan. 11 and Jan. 18, the last period for which data is available. This followed a decline in cases between Dec. 28, 2019 (at which time cases had reached their highest level of the season) and Jan. 11.

Statistics specifically for Stanly County are not yet available, however, according to county DHHS Director David Jenkins.

“We don’t have statistics as to how Stanly County compares to the rest of the state,” he said, referencing the Weekly Influenza Surveillance Summary, published by NCDHHS.

According to the report, ILI visits in 2017-18 and 2018-19 spiked in early to mid-February both years, but, according to the Center for Disease Control website, “there is an 85 percent chance that flu activity has peaked nationwide.”

For North Carolina, DHHS data indicates that should cases for the current year top out in mid-February as expected, the peak is likely to be higher than that of last year, but lower than that of 2017-18.

The report also indicates five strains of influenza as having been diagnosed in the state since Sept, 29, with 94 percent of the cases falling under the three most common strains.

According to the DHHS, the first and most important step in avoiding the flu virus is to get a flu vaccine each year. Other preventive measures include frequent hand washing, covering sneezes and coughs with a tissue or sleeve, avoiding contact with those who are ill and avoiding contact with others if you are ill.

Symptoms of flu include:

• A fever of 100.4 degrees or higher or feeling feverish (not everyone with the flu has a fever);

• A cough and/or sore throat;

• A runny or stuffy nose;

• Headaches and/or body aches;

• Chills;

• Fatigue; and

• Nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea (most common in children)

While more severe than flu, outbreaks of novel coronavirus have captured worldwide attention in recent weeks. However, the risk to North Carolinians, and to United States residents in general, is quite low, according to a news release/fact sheet issued by DHHS.

“The virus is not widespread in the USA, so no additional precautions are recommended,” states the release, but overseas travelers to China and other countries are advised to contact the CDC for additional information.

For further information on flu, its prevention and treatment, go to flu.nc.gov.