Published on January 25, 2017

CMH and WBTV: Protecting yourself against the flu

LENOIR, NC (WBTV) - A Flu Alert has been declared at UNC Healthcare Hospitals across North Carolina, including what is commonly known as Caldwell Memorial Hospital in Lenoir.

The alert means children under 12 are not allowed in as visitors except in special circumstances. Officials say it is an effort to stop a major issue with flu at the facilities before it happens.

"The people who are patients are here for a reason," said RN and hospital official Susan Nichols. "They are here because they are sick and we don't want to risk them getting sicker."

Experts say the yearly flu season is now upon us.

"It is still not too late to get a flu shot," said Doctor David Lowry. He says the vaccine is about 60% effective, and while that means there is no guarantee it will stop someone from catching the virus, it will help to lesson the symptoms if they do catch it.

Lowry says besides getting the flu shot, people should wash their hands with soap and warm water whenever possible.

"Flu is spread through tiny droplets that are expressed in sneezing and coughing," he said.

That's why experts advise avoiding crowds during flu season, when possible, and if someone is sick they should stay home from work and school.

There are tests that can confirm a flu diagnosis and there are medicines that can dramatically reduce the symptoms.

If someone suspects they have the flu, "They should go to their doctor immediately," said Lowry.

As for the restrictions at the hospitals, officials say they will remain in place until the peak of the flu season is past. That could, however, take weeks or even longer.