‘Worst of the flu season ahead of us,' doctors warn

The “worst of the flu season” is coming, Atrium Health doctors warned Thursday.

“The biggest increases in flu seasons are yet to come,” said Dr. Stephen Lingo, a physician at Atrium Charlotte Medical Center. “We have the worst of the flu season ahead of us still, so, please if you have not gotten your shot yet, please do that as soon as possible.”

It's not too late to get your flu shot, Lingo said, adding it takes several weeks to get “good immunity” from it. Since October, more than 2,000 people have died from the flu nationwide. More than 4.5 million flu cases have been reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The flu season this year is slightly more active than last year, Lingo said. South Carolina has reported high levels of the flu this year while North Carolina reported a “moderate” amount of cases, according to the CDC.

Lingo says the number of cases tends to spike after the holidays due to “the weather and the travel” with the very old, the very young, and the chronically ill most at risk. So far, there is no visitor restrictions at Atrium’s hospitals but that could change, Lingo said, when the flu season reaches its peak in the coming weeks.

It’s unclear how severe this flu season will be but Lingo doesn’t think it will be as bad as previous years. He says common-sense advice like staying home from work if you’re sick, washing your hands, disinfecting surfaces and covering your mouth, will help prevent the flu.

“The flu shot is essential every year,” Lingo said.

Each year, it is a guessing game to develop a flu vaccine that will protect against the worst strains of the virus. Lingo says this year’s version appears to be effective.

“So far, I have no reason to believe that this is not a good flu shot,” he said. “It’s just so early in the season we can’t say for sure.”

For more information from the CDC, please click here.