Influenza, or the flu, is a respiratory infection caused by a number of different viruses. The viruses can enter your body through your nose or mouth. In the U.S., 5% to 20% of people get the flu each year. Although not typically dangerous, the flu can be serious or even deadly for elderly people, newborn babies, and people with certain chronic illnesses. The best way to avoid the flu is to get a flu vaccine each year. See the NC Health Info page on Flu & Contagious Illnesses for more information.
There are different kinds of medical providers that can treat or help you manage the flu and contagious illnesses. When necessary, these providers often work together as a team to help you develop a personalized care plan.
You can use your health insurance plan’s directory to find the appropriate care provider in your network. Or you can use the Physician Compare directory from Medicare.gov to find a provider that accepts Medicare. Enter your zip code and select “General Practice” from the drop-down menu. Directories for specific types of providers are listed below.
Primary Care Providers
A primary care provider (PCP) may be a family physician, nurse practitioner, internist, or a physician’s assistant. Generally you see a PCP for checkups, common health problems, and when you get sick. The PCP is usually the first health care professional you will see. Your PCP may put together a team of providers to help you with whatever flu or contagious illness-related issues you may have. Your PCP will coordinate your care among these other specialists and team members. Your health insurance plan may require you to get the doctor’s referral for visits to the other health professionals on the team.
A family physician is a general practitioner with additional specialty training and expertise in dealing with patients of all ages. Family physicians may provide both preventive care (routine checkups) and diagnosis and treatment of illnesses, like the flu. Family physicians will coordinate your care with other subspecialists when needed. Some family physicians have special training in the flu and contagious illnesses. Use the American Board of Family Medicine to find a family physician.
Internal medicine specialists, also known as internists, focus on treating adult and adolescent medical disorders and provide long-term, comprehensive care. Internists are trained to treat the whole body, not just the internal organs, and they see patients for a variety of conditions and complaints, including contagious illnesses. Internists often provide preventive medicine and patient education services. Use the American Board of Medical Specialties Certification Matters service to find a board certified internist near you. You must register first. Choose North Carolina as the state and Internal Medicine as the specialty.
A physician’s assistant (PA) is a licensed and certified professional who provides a range of services under the direction and supervision of a doctor. PAs use effective screening and diagnostic procedures for the flu and contagious illnesses. They can establish treatment goals for you, teach you about healthy lifestyles, and motivate you to take care of yourself. To find a PA use the North Carolina Medical Board Licensee Search. Choose physician assistant as the License Type and Infectious Disease as the Area of Practice. Leave the other fields blank.
Allergists/Immunologists treat conditions that involve the immune system, such as allergies, immune deficiency diseases, and autoimmune diseases. Allergists/Immunologists practicing in the U.S. have completed medical school, at least three years of residency in pediatrics or internal medicine, then at least two years of specialized training in allergy and immunology. Use this directory by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology to locate an immunologist near you.
Clinical trials are research studies that examine whether a medical treatment or device is safe and effective for human beings. Many of the drugs and therapies available today are the result of clinical trials. To learn more, and to decide whether participating in a clinical trial is right for you, visit ClinicalTrials.gov; a service of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
Contagious Illnesses Supplies: Information about financial assistance with contagious illnesses medications, supplies, related health care items and services can be found at the Medicine Assistance Tool (MAT.org).
Free and Discounted Services: There are a number of free and discounted services in North Carolina that you may qualify for, including free urgent care clinics and help with paying for your medications or health insurance. Check out our Free and Discounted Services page to learn more.
Need More Information?
Do you have a health related question? You are welcome to use the Health Sciences Library’s Ask a Librarian service.
Our librarians are happy to help you with questions such as “How is diabetes diagnosed?” or “What is heart disease?”. We can not answer questions about an individual’s medical case or care. Please contact your doctor for specific medical advice.
Page authored by UNC Health Sciences Library Staff.