BCDH Health Alert: Influenza Activity Increasing in WNC

March 4, 2016

Influenza activity increased in NC during the last half of February. Flu is now widespread across the state.

  • Per Dr. David Buhner, Public Health Epidemiologist for Mission, WNC is clearly in the early stages of the yearly epidemic of influenza. It is too early to know how bad this year’s epidemic will be.
  • As of 2/27/16, there have been 5 flu-associated deaths in NC this season. (See graph below for ages.)
    • None of these have been in Buncombe County residents.
  • Influenza surveillance data for North Carolina are updated weekly at flu.nc.gov.




Treat suspected influenza in high-risk outpatients (see box below), those with progressive disease, and all hospitalized patients with antiviral medications as soon as possible, regardless of negative rapid influenza diagnostic test results and without waiting for RT-PCR testing results.

·         False negative rapid flu tests are common during flu season, therefore a negative rapid flu test result does NOT exclude a diagnosis of influenza in a patient with suspected influenza. When there is clinical suspicion of influenza and antiviral treatment is indicated, antiviral treatment should be started as soon as possible without waiting for results of testing.

·         Early antiviral treatment works best, but treatment may offer benefit even when started more than 48 hours after symptom onset in patients with severe, complicated or progressive illness, and in hospitalized patients.

·         While influenza vaccination is the best way to prevent flu illness, a history of influenza vaccination does not rule out the possibility of influenza in an ill patient with clinically compatible signs and symptoms.

·         Antiviral treatment can also be considered for any previously healthy, symptomatic outpatient not at high risk with confirmed or suspected flu, if treatment can be initiated within 48 hours of illness onset.

·         For treatment recommendations and other flu info, see http://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/index.htm.


From http://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/antivirals/summary-clinicians.htm


As a reminder, physicians in North Carolina are required to report all influenza-associated deaths (adult and pediatric) to their Local Health Department.

·         An influenza-associated death = a death resulting from a clinically compatible illness confirmed to be influenza (any strain) by an appropriate laboratory or rapid diagnostic test

  • For Buncombe County, contact Disease Control staff at 828-250-5109.


Additionally, please continue your efforts to vaccinate anyone > 6 months of age this season for as long as influenza viruses are circulating. 

·         The vaccine is a good match for currently circulating flu viruses.


Please let me or Buncombe County Disease Control staff (828-250-5109) know if you have any questions or concerns about flu or any other public health matter.


Thanks for the care you provide our community,


Jennifer Mullendore, MD, MSPH

Medical Director

Buncombe County Health and Human Services

Office:  (828) 250-6308