ARHS: Too early to gauge severity of flu season


Albemarle Regional Health Services reports it's too early to predict the severity of the new flu season, but the agency is preparing with doses of the flu vaccine on hand.


By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Sunday, October 14, 2018

It's too early to say if the 2018-19 flu season will be as bad as last year's "high severity" season, local health officials report. Nonetheless, they're still prepared to administer thousands of vaccines.

Albemarle Regional Health Services reported last week that the 2018-19 season is, so far, “comparable to trends seen in the past for this time of year.” The region is early in the flu season, which runs from October through May, according to the state website flu.nc.gov. A chart ARHS shared on influenza-like illnesses in North Carolina shows they remain low — even slightly below the number in 2017-18.

However, ARHS officials also report “it is not possible to predict what the severity of this flu season will be like.”

The 2017-18 flu season was exceptionally bad, as ARHS noted it “was the first season to be classified by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) as a high-severity season across all age groups,” with high rates of visits to clinics and even high rates of hospitalization.

In preparation for the 2018-19 season, ARHS reported flu vaccines nationally have been updated “to better match circulating viruses.”

ARHS also reported it has more than 2,300 doses of flu vaccines, and vaccines are available at all ARHS health department facilities. Those whose vaccines are not covered by the state, such as covered children and pregnant women, may purchase them. Vaccines for adults over 65 cost $75, while younger adults will pay $40. ARHS will bill people's insurance for the vaccinations, the agency noted.

Sentara Albemarle Medical Center is also prepared for this year's flu season, hospital spokeswoman Annya Soucy said in an email.

Like ARHS, Soucy said it's too early to know how bad this year's flu season will be. However, she said Sentara Albemarle will provide flu shots free of charge to its staff and volunteers. Flu shots will be offered to patients as part of their routine care, she said.