Now that flu season is in full swing, it is important that the public be educated about the types of viruses that can cause it. The “flu” is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Two main types, Type A and B, are typically the ones that cause the flu epidemics each year. These viruses can cause mild to severe illnesses and can sometimes lead to death. It is estimated that 25,000 people in the U.S. die each year from the flu and another 220,000 are hospitalized.
In North Carolina, between Sept. 30, 2012, and May 18, 2013, a total of 418 cases of influenza were confirmed by the State Laboratory of Public Health. This number is only a small portion because according to Becky Barr, Public Information Officer for the Macon County Health Department, many physicians and hospitals treat influenza based on patient symptoms only, without submitting samples for laboratory confirmation.