Flu spike in the Heart of Carolina

According to national reports, across America the 2011 flu season is the worst in two years.

In 2009, free flu clinics helped lessen the threat of a flu pandemic.

Now the death of Cary High School senior Katie Taylor is prompting dozens of people to get a flu shot, after she died from complications related to the flu last week.

Her story led Dana Burden of Raleigh to get herself and her kids vaccinated on Tuesday.

"It kind of bothers me, because I have three children and I just don't want that to happen to them," she said.

Burden was not the only one touched by Taylor's story Tuesday.

"Just that she was healthy, had no problems and probably thought that she was fine to go without the flu shot," NC State junior Caitlin Crawford said.

No one knows for sure if Taylor would've survived the flu had she been vaccinated.

However, Allison Dupont says she got a flu shot this year after being quarantined with H1N1 last year and she still got sick.

"I just felt awful," Dupont said. "I literally could not move. I couldn't breathe well, because I was coughing so hard and so much. I was having trouble sleeping. I just felt awful."

Still she says she believes the flu shot helped keep her from getting worse and ending up in the hospital.

And doctors say this year they're seeing more patients with flu symptoms, who did get vaccinated.

"We are seeing a lot of people with flu and other complications, pneumonia, bronchitis fatigue and we are seeing too much. We are about to bust," said Terry Whitney with Lakewood Urgent Care Clinic.

Wake Med and other hospitals around the Heart of Carolina have seen a rise in flu cases and UNC, Rex, Cape Fear Valley and Betsy Johnson Memorial reported seeing a steady increase to a spike in cases since mid-January.

"The traffic over the last two days has been unbelievable," Cape Fear Valley Medical Center ER Dr. Scott Miekley said. "We have literally had hundreds of patients come to the ER Department and really taxing our system."

For more details on the number of cases hospitals are seeing, click here.

There are three types of flu viruses doctors are seeing; all three are in this year's vaccine.

"When we've had a good match in the past the vaccine has been about 70 to 90 percent effective in preventing the flu," Epidemiologist Dr. Zack Moore said.

North Carolina's flu expert says it's not too late to get a flu shot even if you've been sick or exposed.

For a list of flu shot locations, click here.

Doctors say preventing the flu is easier than treating the sickness. They're telling patients with flu-like symptoms to stay at home, unless they're coming for treatment.

Officials at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center have not yet restricted hospital visitors, but in the ER they are putting paper mask on patients with flu-like symptoms.

They say their best advice for flu patients is take medicine, drink lots of fluids, and stay away from other people.

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