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Prevention stressed for flu season

102718Flu-Shot

Edgecombe County Health Director Karen Lachapelle, left, receives a flu shot from Edgecombe County Health Department Clinical Supervisor Leslie Arnold on Thursday at the Edgecombe County Health Department in Tarboro.

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Saturday, October 27, 2018

After a record-breaking flu season last year, health care professionals are urging Twin Counties residents to get a flu shot this year.

“Getting your flu shot is the first and most important step in protecting you and your family from the influenza (flu) virus,” said Larissa Mills, coordinator of health services for the Nash County Health Department.

The Nash County Health Department is offering flu shots by appointment only at both the Rocky Mount location at 322 S. Franklin St. and the Nashville location at 214 S. Barnes St. Call 252-446-0027 to schedule flu shots at the Rocky Mount location and 252-459-9819 to schedule them in Nashville.

Residents need to bring their insurance cards to the appointment. The cost without insurance is $47. However, residents with Medicaid, Health Choice, Medicare Part B, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, Aetna, Tricare and United Healthcare can receive shots with no copay.

The Edgecombe County Health Department is offering flu shots on a walk-in basis from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The shots are available at both the Rocky Mount location at 155 Atlantic Ave. or the Tarboro location at 122 E. St. James St. A flu shot for uninsured patients ages 6 months to 64 years costs $35. For patients over 65 and older, the cost is $40.

"The flu virus can be deadly and the best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu shot,” Edgecombe County Health Director Karen Lachapelle said. “It is also important to practice good hand hygiene and stay away from people who have the flu. Remember, the flu is contagious."

Last year was considered a “high-severity” season, with 172 reported child deaths and 19 consecutive weeks of record-breaking flu-related hospitalizations nationwide, according to a statement by AmeriHealth Caritas, a national leader in Medicaid managed care and other health-care services. 

The number of flu-related deaths in North Carolina has increased significantly over the past three years. There were 389 flu-related deaths reported in the state during the 2017-18 flu season, according to data from the state Department of Health and Human Services. That figure is nearly double the 218 deaths reported during the 2016-17 flu season and six times the 59 reported deaths the year before.

The flu season typically begins in October and ends as late as May. The flu season generally peaks between December and February, when most flu-related hospitalizations and deaths occur. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 12,000 and 49,000 people die of the flu each year and more than 700,000 people are hospitalized in some years.

However,  health care professionals feel that some people may not heed the warning to get vaccinated. According to a report released last year by the CDC, “African-Americans nationwide were less likely to get a flu shot than white Americans amid concerns of side effects and efficacy. The CDC study, which included 800 white and 800 African-American participants, found that only 41 percent of African-American adults received the flu shot compared with 47 percent of white adults.”

In a separate report, the CDC noted that only 39 percent of Hispanic adults receive the vaccine.

Sickweather, the world’s first real-time map of sickness, now has an app that helps track flu-related illnesses. The organization released its first preview of the this year’s flu season last week. 

“Currently, our social sentiment monitoring and third-party data, which is correlated and validated against available data from the CDC, point-of-sale data for related medications, demographic and census data, shows it’s going to be a busy year.” said Laurel Edelman, chief revenue office and health care sector expert for Sickweather.

Sickweather predicts that the flu season will gain in strength over the next month, rise considerably near Thanksgiving and peak about the second week of January 2019.

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