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James and Margaret Bailey always make it a point to get their flu shots together each year.
“It’s always a good idea to go with your spouse,” Margaret Bailey said with a smile. On Monday, the couple headed out to the Wilson County Health Department for what they call their annual “flu date day.”
The Baileys, both 67 years old, know how vital it is to protect themselves against the flu, especially since they travel a lot outside the country.
“We especially wanted to get it early this time because we are going to Cartagena, Colombia at the end of the month,” James Bailey said. “You know you’re more susceptible to getting something especially traveling.”
Health officials say flu season is underway and now is the time to get protected.
“It’s not too early,” said Laura Lowe, Wilson Medical Center’s chief nursing officer. “We want people to take precautions.”
Flu season typically begins in October and runs through May, with influenza infections usually spiking in December and January.
“We are already starting to see flu,” Lowe said, adding that the hospital saw its first positive case a few weeks ago.
LAST YEAR’S DEADLY FLU SEASON
Wilson County had five reported flu deaths in 2018, one of which happened in June, according to county Health Director Teresa Ellen. In 2017, Wilson had six flu deaths. About 80,000 people across the country died as a result of the flu last year alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That was the highest it has been in four decades, officials said.
“Just in North Carolina we had almost 400 (deaths),” Lowe said. “It was the worst year in North Carolina than it has ever been.”
The U.S. also saw 180 child deaths associated with the flu last year, according to the CDC. Eighty percent of those deaths occurred in children who had not received a flu vaccination, officials said.
‘GET THE VACCINE’
Lowe said it’s hard to predict what this year’s flu season will hold. She added there are many misconceptions regarding flu vaccines. Lowe said some people have said they still got the flu last year even after they received their flu shot.
“The symptoms could have been worse and even fatal,” she said. “It’s still better to get the vaccine.”
While flu deaths usually happen to members of at-risk populations including the elderly and those with underlying chronic illnesses, last year’s season was different.
“It was all across the board, which was scary,” she said.
FLU SHOTS AVAILABLE
Joyce Wetherington, public information officer for the health department, said this year’s flu vaccine protects people against four strains versus just three last year. Those are available for those 6 months and older. The health department also carries a high-dose vaccine for people 65 and older.
Flu shots are available at most local pharmacies, doctors’ offices and the Wilson County Health Department by appointment. Officials encourage people to bring their health insurance card.
The health department also has a limited amount of flu vaccines for uninsured adults. For more information contact the Wilson County Health Department at 252-237-3141.