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Features Health & Wellness

The current flu season has proved to be one of the most severe in recent history. With a strain of influenza being resistant to the flu vaccine, the flu season started earlier, and has experienced more cases than usual, leading the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to officially declare a flu epidemic.

Despite the number of reported cases in North Carolina and in Macon County decreasing, officials with the health department caution that flu season is not over yet.

During the January meeting, Board of Health member Jimmy Villiard informed the board that the county is still cautious of flu cases and will continue to monitor activity. According to Villiard, there have been 90 flu related deaths in North Carolina, one of which occurred in Macon County.

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Every three years, the Macon County Health Department completes a community health assessment to get an idea of how the county stacks up to other counties in the state. With the last assessment being completed in 2012, health department staff are gearing up to complete the assessment in 2015. In off years, to stay on track, the department completes a State of the County Health Report, to stay on top of health issues in Macon County.

The 2014 assessment shows that heart disease stands as the greatest cause of death in Macon County, claiming 231 deaths according to the report. Trachea, bronchus, and lung cancer are listed as the second highest death cause in the county, followed by chronic lower respiratory disease, Cerenrovascular disease, and Alzheimer's disease.

While the top five leading causes of death in Macon County were discussed by the board of Health, Becky Barr, Population Health Section Administrator for the county, also noted that Macon County has several causes of death ranking in higher than the state average, something she hopes the county can work to improve in the future. Macon County is above the state average for deaths related to each of the top five leading causes of death in the county, as well as, breast cancer, suicide, and liver disease.

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Influenza (flu) activity throughout North Carolina has decreased; however, Mission Health asks that family and friends continue to limit their visits to patients in the hospital. Mission Health has lifted the Visitor Restriction Policy and reinstituted the Visitor Limitation Policy, which suggests children under age 12 and people who do not feel well should call patients and not visit them at the hospital. Mission Health is implementing this precaution at Mission Hospital and all Mission Health member hospitals and affiliates in western North Carolina including CarePartners in Asheville, McDowell Hospital in Marion, Transylvania Regional Hospital in Brevard, Blue Ridge Regional Hospital in Spruce Pine, Angel Medical Center in Franklin and Highlands-Cashiers Hospital in Highlands.

In addition to limiting exposure, the spread of the flu can be controlled with frequent hand washing. All hospital visitors are urged to wash their hands before and after visiting.

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Where do family members turn when they are faced with the problems and heartaches that come from dealing with a mental illness in a loved one on a daily basis? The NAMI Family-to-Family program, a much acclaimed, free 12-session program for relatives and friends of individuals challenged by mental illness, will be offered in Franklin on Tuesdays, starting Feb. 24, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sponsored by NAMI Appalachian South, the local affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, this course provides up-to-date information about schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, panic disorder, anxiety and other mental illnesses. The course has the dual focus of education, and understanding the experience of living with mental illness. It encompasses such topics as how the brain and medications work, early signs of relapse, communications, local resources and self care.

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