LAURINBURG — Scotland Health Care System is again urging the public to avoid its emergency department if suffering from the flu.
Hospital officials are asking that people contact their primary care provider or visit a nearby urgent care facility instead.
They said it is important to avoid the emergency department unless there are signs and symptoms of severe illness, as it can expose the patient to other illnesses and expose others to illness as well.
“We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause our patients and our visitors,” said Dr. Cheryl Davis, vice president of Medical Affairs and Chief Medical Officer at Scotland Health Care System. “But our top concern is for the health and safety of all our patients, staff and our entire community. Those who have not yet received the influenza vaccine are urged to do so immediately and to ensure that their children have been vaccinated. ”
Children under 12, vaccinated or not, will not be permitted in patient care areas at Scotland Memorial Hospital.
Anyone who presents to hospital will be asked by registration personnel if they are experiencing “flu-like” symptoms. A “yes” response will trigger a request by the associate for the individual to wear a mask. Also, if visitors have experienced any flu-like illness, they must be symptom free for 48 hours before they visit in the hospital.
Symptoms that could be early signs of the flu include fever, headache, cough, extreme dehydration, lightheadedness and shortness of breath. Treatment with antivirals is the most helpful within the first 48 hours of symptoms.
Health officials said that there were 34 flu deaths in North Carolina as of the first week in February, the fourth straight week in which the death toll has exceeded the previous week’s total.
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services said in its report that one of the deaths for the week ending Feb. 3 was identified as a pediatric death, specifically someone between the ages of 5 and 17. That person wasn’t identified, nor was the location of that death.
The total marks the highest one-week figure since flu season began last October.
For the season, there have been 140 flu-related deaths in the state, with 108 of them occurring in the last four weeks. The current total is more than halfway to the mark of 218 deaths in the 2016-17 flu season.
The News & Observer of Raleigh reports medical experts say that those who have already caught the flu and fully recovered should get vaccinated if they didn’t get their shot. That’s because getting sick develops immunity to the strain that infected you, but not to other strains in circulation, said Dave Weber, a professor of pediatrics and epidemiology at the UNC-Chapel Hill.
Multiple flu infections in the same person are rare but not unheard of.
“It would be bad luck but it has happened – based on strains,” said Michael Anthony “Tony” Moody, chief medical officer of Duke University’s Human Vaccine Institute. “The strains tend not to circulate at the same time. You can catch them back to back to back like that.”
Gov. Roy Cooper is urging people to protect themselves against the virus.
“We’re in the middle of a nationwide flu epidemic and I’m asking North Carolinians to do their part to stay healthy and stop the flu from spreading,” Cooper said in a statement.