Editor’s Note: The Iredell County Health Department provided the following health advice for the upcoming flu season.

Special to Iredell Free News

The Iredell County Health Department works tirelessly to protect our community from contagious respiratory viruses such as COVID-19 and influenza. Public Health measures, like social distancing, staying home when sick or exposed, and masking while indoors, have become important tools in protecting our community. After experiencing a pandemic, we are more aware of prevention strategies and that work in reducing the spread of COVID-19 and the flu. This has reduced the time individuals are away from work, related illnesses, hospitalizations and death. With minimal flu activity last year and less natural immunity to the current strain, illness during this flu season could burden the already taxed healthcare systems.

The exact timing and duration of flu seasons can vary, but influenza activity often begins to increase in October. Most of the time, flu activity peaks between December and February, although activity can last as late as May. One thing is certain: the flu shot is your best protection and easiest way to reduce your chances of contracting the virus. It is important to note that getting a flu vaccine will not protect you against COVID-19; however, flu vaccination will reduce your risk for getting the flu and serious complications from the flu.

According to The Centers Disease Control and Prevention, it is possible to have the flu and COVID-19 at the same time, but how often this may occur is unknown at this time. What we do know is that if more individuals receive the flu shot this year, there will be less people sick from the flu. This is extremely important, as we want to reduce the number of individuals who get the flu and then have to visit a physician, emergency department, and/or end up hospitalized.

Influenza can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Flu is different from a cold. Flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:
• Fever or feeling feverish/chills
• Cough
• Sore throat
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Muscle or body aches
• Headaches
• Fatigue (tiredness)
• Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults).

Vaccination is a vital tool in preventing influenza. The Iredell County Health Department is now offering walk-in flu shots at the Statesville location between the hours of 8:15 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. and until 5:30 p.m. on Thursdays and by appointment only at the Mooresville location. Appointments are accepted at the Statesville location, but not required. The Health Department accepts Self-Pay, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, all Medicaid -anaged care plans, North Carolina Health Choice, and Medicare Part B. Call 704-878-5300 for information regarding the flu or insurance coverage or visit https://www.cdc.gov/flu