Submitted by Ballad Health
Flu levels in the Appalachian Highlands have once again started to climb, and Ballad Health urges caution and preventive measures for local communities. Since the end of September, the health system’s hospitals have seen 2,393 patients for flu infections and complications, and 297 patients within the last week – up from 236 in the prior week. Ballad Health officials also noted the rate growth applies to both the A and B strains of the virus.
Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates there have been at least 19 million flu illnesses in the United States since Oct. 1, 2019, resulting in 180,000 hospitalizations and 10,000 deaths.
“While we’ve had a mild winter in terms of weather, it’s been an uncommonly harsh flu season,” said Jamie Swift, Ballad Health’s corporate director of infection prevention. “While our rates appeared to be at their highest during the week of Christmas, the disease is still circulating rapidly in our area, with numbers steadily increasing during the last three weeks.”
In addition to the flu, other transmissible illnesses, including stomach viruses and respiratory infections, are also occurring at higher levels throughout the region. To protect the health of patients and the public, Ballad Health continues to enforce visitation restrictions at all its facilities. This restriction, which went into effect on Dec. 17, applies to all individuals under the age of 18, as well as group visitation.
To combat the flu, Swift and other Ballad Health officials emphasize appropriate hygiene precautions for everyone in the public, including frequent handwashing and covering coughs and sneezes. They also advise everyone 6 months and older, especially pregnant women, the elderly and anyone with a chronic health condition or weakened immune system, to get their flu shot as soon as possible.
“It is never too late to get a flu shot,” Swift said. “We expect flu to spread for several more weeks, and a flu vaccine is one of the best measures you can take to protect yourself.”
Flu vaccines are available at Ballad Health primary care offices, Ballad Health pharmacies and other major pharmacies. People experiencing flu symptoms can find care at Ballad Health Medical Associates Urgent Care locations throughout the region.
To find a Ballad Health pharmacy or Ballad Health Medical Associates Urgent Care location, please visit www.balladhealth.org.