Just about every announcement coming out of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) these days has to do with COVID-19.

However, on Monday, Sept. 13, the department had an alternative message for the public.  Health officials sent out a press release reminding everyone to get vaccinated against the flu since North Carolina still has flu season – even though the flu doesn’t get much press anymore.

State officials noted that the pressure that the pandemic is putting on hospitals makes it more difficult to handle flu cases.  They’re also reminding North Carolinians that the flu can be a killer.

“COVID-19 is still here, still sending North Carolinians to the hospital with severe illness and still causing deaths,” stated NCDHHS State Health Director and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Elizabeth Tilson in the press release. “As flu season begins, we all need to do what we can to be as healthy as possible.  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 vaccination for the flu for everyone 6 months old and up.  The vaccinations, they say, reduce the risk of more serious cases – making the flu vaccinations especially important for those over 65, children under five years of age, pregnant women and anyone with a medical condition like asthma, diabetes, heart disease or obesity.

According to state health officials, in North Carolina, cases of the flu are most common from late fall to early spring, with activity usually hitting a high in January or February.

One “good” thing about the pandemic is that many of the measures people take to reduce the spread of COVID-19 also help reduce the spread of the flu.

The NCDHHS September 13 press release notes, “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.”

A lot of the advice for thwarting the spread of the flu is the same as that for reducing the spread of COVID-19:

  • Stay home when sick until fever-free for at least 24 hours.
  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then throw that tissue away.