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Flu deaths in NC reach 26; WNC hospitals flooded with patients

Western North Carolina health officials are asking people to avoid the hospital if possible. They want to remind folks who aren't experiencing life-threatening or non-emergency issues to go to urgent care centers instead, because many area hospitals are at capacity. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Area hospitals are filling up during this severe flu season. Health officials say four more people have died of the flu in North Carolina, bringing the total to 26 deaths from the flu this season.

Western North Carolina health officials are asking people to avoid the hospital if possible. They want to remind folks who aren't experiencing life-threatening or non-emergency issues to go to urgent care centers instead, because many area hospitals are at capacity.

Like a driving rain, mountain area hospitals have been flooded with flu patients over the past few weeks

"I think we've seen 24 cases of flu, with he majority of that being influenza A," one health officials said.

And, like many others this season, Gretchen Nicholson gathered with family for the holidays and quickly came down with the flu.

"I knew that several members of my family were ill, but for me is started with a cough," Nicholson said.

Nicholson wasn't sure if it was the flu, but a swab test quickly confirmed and she developed a fever

"The next two days, I mean, was bad, even with Tamiflu. I felt really bad. The fever really takes it out of you," Nicholson said.

Officials with the CDC said the flu is peaking about a month early this year, which could be due in part to weather.

Now, as the flu spreads, hospitals are filling up. But doctors want to save space for patients who are more sensitive, like the young, the elderl, and those suffering from a chronic illness.

They want people who are young, healthy and have mild symptoms to go to urgent care centers.

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