“COVID-19 is still here, still sending North Carolinians to the hospital with severe illness and still causing deaths. As flu season begins, we all need to do what we can to be as healthy as possible,” said Dr. Elizabeth Tilson, NCDHHS State Health Director and Chief Medical Officer. “It is critically important to get your flu vaccine and your COVID-19 vaccine. Flu can be a serious and sometimes deadly disease. Getting vaccinated can prevent you from getting ill and keep you from needing a hospital bed.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends flu vaccination for everyone 6 months and older with any licensed, age-appropriate flu vaccine. Vaccination against the flu can make illness milder and reduce the risk of more serious outcomes, making it especially important for those at higher risk of complications, such as people over 65, children younger than 5, pregnant women and those with certain medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease or obesity. Some of those same groups are also at high risk of complications from COVID-19.
Flu vaccinations are available at hospitals, pharmacies, private medical offices, some federally qualified health care centers and local health departments. COVID-19 vaccines may now be administered at the same time as other vaccines, including the flu vaccine, for those who need both. This fall and winter – don’t wait to vaccinate for flu and COVID-19.
In North Carolina, flu infections are most common from late fall to early spring, with activity usually peaking in January or February. The following precautions should be taken to protect against the spread of flu and other viruses like COVID-19:
- Stay home when sick until fever-free for at least 24 hours. Those with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should follow CDC guidance for end of isolation.
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then discard the tissue promptly.
- Continue to practice the 3 Ws — wearing a face covering over your nose and mouth, waiting 6 feet apart, and washing your hands often can help slow the spread of COVID-19 and flu.
COVID-19 and flu symptoms are similar, so individuals who feel ill should call ahead before going to a doctor’s office, local health department or urgent care. They should consult with a doctor about getting tested for flu and/or COVID-19. Flu symptoms include:
- Cough and/or sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Headaches and/or body aches
- Nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea (most common in children)
Anyone who thinks they have the flu should contact their doctor right away to see if they need treatment with a prescription antiviral drug, such as Tamiflu. Early treatment with an antiviral drug can help prevent flu infections from becoming more serious. Treatment with a prescription antiviral drug is especially important for hospitalized patients, people with severe flu illness and those who are at high risk of serious flu complications based on their age or health. Treatment is also available for those with COVID-19 who are at higher risk for severe infections.
The Respiratory Surveillance Report provides updates on flu and COVID-19 surveillance data. Beginning Oct. 8 and through the flu season, flu data from around the state will be included in addition to data on COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses.