Flu season arrives early in North Carolina

Health officials are warning that flu season is officially here and it started earlier than last season.

The number of confirmed influenza cases are starting to trickle in, and clinics throughout the area have been busy as folks rush to get their flu vaccine.

The CDC sent out a tweet saying data shows this season's vaccine has better protection against the flu.

Health officials say the dominant strains circulating this year are Strain-A and Strain-B. Those strains, and the various sub-strains, are covered with the vaccine.

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services released their latest flu numbers Thursday. So far, there have been three confirmed influenza cases statewide since Oct. 4. The cases were reported in Cabarrus, Caldwell, and Warren counties.

In September, one person died in Western North Carolina after complications from an influenza infection.

A couple of county health departments say they are starting to see an increase in cases.

"We are seeing more [cases] at this stage then is typical," said Wake County Public Health Director Sue Lynn Ledford. "There has already has been one death in the western part of the state. We know that flu is serious and so people do need to take every effort they can to make sure that they are vaccinated."

Wake County Human Services is offering weekly flu vaccination clinics every Thursday in October at the Public Health Center. The PHC is located at 10 Sunnybrook Road, Raleigh from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Clinic E, and from 3 to 7 p.m. in Room 194. In addition to these clinics, there will be many other clinics held throughout the county.

The cost for a flu vaccine (shot or nasal spray) is $30. The high-dose flu vaccine costs $60. Payment is expected at the time of service. Wake County accepts cash, checks, credit card (Visa and MasterCard), Medicare Part B, Medicaid ($3 copay if 21 or over), Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and North Carolina Health Choice. Clients with Medicare HMOs or other insurance should bring an insurance card and will be required to pay for their flu vaccine at the time of service.

There is no charge for people in the following groups:

  • Uninsured, pregnant women

  • Children who qualify for the federal government's Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program.

  • The Durham County Department of Public Health currently offers flu shots on Mondays and Fridays, on a walk-in basis, from 8:30 a.m. until 11:00 a.m., and again from 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m., in the Adult Health and Immunization Clinic (Lobby 6), located in the Human Services Building at 414 East Main Street.

    The health department will bill Medicaid, Medicare Part B, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. For those who qualify, a sliding fee scale may be applied towards the cost for the vaccine.

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