Flu cases decreasing, COVID-19 cases increasing in the Triad, NC, infectious disease expert says – WXII12 Winston-Salem

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The number of flu cases still remains high but is slowly decreasing, and COVID-19 cases are rising, a Winston-Salem infectious disease expert said.
Dr. Christopher Ohl, an infectious disease expert with Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, held a news conference Thursday, which he has often held in the past, to give an update on the recent viruses in the area — COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus and the Flu.
According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services website, as of Thursday, the Piedmont Triad is facing one of the highest COVID-19 outbreaks across the state, with Guilford County higher than Forsyth County.
Forsyth County currently has 10 ongoing outbreaks, and Guilford County has 21.
Most of the outbreaks across the state are taking place in nursing homes, according to the website.
Ohl said that the number of COVID-19 cases is beginning to increase and believes it will become the dominant virus in the Triad by Christmas.
He said more people are gathering indoors due to the colder temperatures and holidays, which is driving the spike. The trend began before Thanksgiving, he added.
“By Christmas, if these trends continue, in my prediction they will, we’ll be entering more of a COVID time for circulating viruses,” he said.
It’s a similar trend to last year, where cases began rising in late November and December. However, Ohl said he believes this season will be different from last year.
“I think we’ll have less severe diseases with this coming season,” Ohl said. “I think we’ll have fewer hospitalizations, and I think we’ll have fewer deaths.”
Ohl said the population has a stronger immunity, and more people are vaccinated compared to last year.
However, Ohl said that people should still stay vigilant this holiday season, especially if they have loved ones with underlying health conditions.
He encouraged people to get the new fall booster vaccine as it will protect them from omicron and the new subvariants, BQ1 and BQ1.1, which he believes are less severe than delta, he said.
“It will certainly help protect you against from severe infections, limit the amount of symptoms, and limit the time you have it, if you get it,” Ohl said. “So I would recommend that you get it (booster shot).”
While the number of COVID-19 cases are increasing, the flu is currently the dominant virus in The Piedmont Triad, Ohl said.
At one point, the virus rocked several Triad schools.
“It was really going around in schools. There was one time where West Forsyth High School in town had over 400 people out with the flu in one particular day,” he said.
There are currently 15 times more positive flu cases than COVID-19 cases, Ohl confirmed.
According to NBC News, there is an increase in demand for Tamiflu, which is causing a supply shortage for a number of pharmacies.
Ohl encourages people to get Tamiflu if they are sick with the virus.
“If you get Tamiflu, you can reduce the odds of transmitting it to another person, and sometimes we’ll use Tamiflu to protect someone from the flu,” Ohl said.
Not as many people are currently getting the flu shot compared to previous years, Ohl said. However, the shot can make a difference.
“It will certainly reduce the severity, and for about 60-70 percent of people, it will totally prevent it,
The symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 are similar. However, there are key differences.
Ohl said the flu will hit you faster than COVID-19, but with COVID-19, people can lose their sense of taste and smell.
People who get sick should test for COVID-19 first, Ohl said.
If they test negative and are experiencing a fever, stuffy nose, headache, runny nose, sore throat, etc., they more than likely have the flu.
It’s important to determine if a person has the flu or COVID-19. People with COVID-19 must stay home for five days, while people with the flu must stay home for 24 hours after their fever is gone.
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