CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Some health experts are calling this year's flu season the worst they've seen, and say the bitter cold we’ve been dealing with has made it worse.
Channel 9 spoke with doctors at Novant Health Monday, who said that when it's cold outside, people tend to stay indoors and are in close quarters, allowing germs to spread more easily.
They said they expect the spike in flu cases to slow down somewhat now that the cold snap is ending.
The hospital has not restricted visitors, but is asking them to use common sense, including washing their hands.
Carolinas HealthCare System has set up stands with masks and hand sanitizers.
Currently, 46 states are reporting widespread flu activity. Since the flu season started in October, 20 people -- including two children -- have died from the virus in North Carolina and eight people have died in South Carolina.
Doctors across the country are extremely concerned and nationwide, there have already been more than 41,000 confirmed flu cases -- more than twice as many at this time last year.
"This is, I would say, the worst flu season that I've seen," Dr. Claudia Pfeil said.
Some people do everything they possibly can to avoid getting the flu, such as avoiding touching anything in public.
"Door handles, bathrooms. I try to use my elbows and things like that," resident Jesse Shaver said.
A Charlotte pharmacist told Channel 9 that every year, there's a point where pharmacies get inundated with people needing flu medicine.
In fact, there have been so many flu cases reported that some pharmacies are now running out of the anti-viral Tamiflu medication.
The expensive medicine, which costs over $100, eases symptoms and can shorten the flu by a few days, but supplies can run out.
"Normally, it'll happen every year at some point or another," local pharmacist Jesse Pike said.
Pike said his pharmacy in east Charlotte can order more medicine as late as 7 p.m. and it'll be at his store by 10 a.m. the next day. But he said pharmacies like his can lose money if they order too much, which is why some run out.
"It is something that you don't want to have lying around your shelves after the expiration date is due," Pike said.
Pike agrees with doctors that this year will be a worse than the average flu season. One reason, some studies found, is that this year's shot is less effective against a tougher strain of flu.
Jackie Harms said she and her husband received the shot.
"He's been sick for about a week. He's getting better. He's better," Harms said.
Still, doctors advise getting a shot to put up every line of defense.
Channel 9 checked with officials at a few local hospitals, who said they have not had any flu restrictions for their patients.
CHS officials said they are monitoring flu activity in area hospitals and have kiosks set up with sanitizer and masks for patients.
Novant Health officials said in a statement to Channel 9:
"No flu restrictions for visitors at this time. We are monitoring flu activity daily and asking visitors to take all necessary precautions, like washing hands frequently, using hand sanitizer regularly and wearing masks if they have a cough."
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