Flu Season Hits ‘Widespread’ Level

If you’ve been dealing with coughing co-workers or congested children, you already know this, but the flu has officially reached the “widespread” threshold, according to monitoring reported by the Virginia Department of Health.

Northern Virginia is the hardest hit area in Virginia so far, with more than 5 percent of visits to emergency rooms and urgent care centers attributable to concerns about flu-like symptoms. By age group, children age newborn to 4 and 5 to 18 were responsible for most of the care visits. There have been no pediatric deaths so far this season.

Nationwide, last year’s flu season resulted in the highest influenza death toll in 40 years, more than 80,000 people.

The flu season in Virginia is running a little behind last year’s timeline. In Virginia last year, flu cases remained at a widespread level for 18 weeks, starting in November and stretching into March. This year, flu infections did not become widespread until the final week of December.

Statewide there have been 205 confirmed lab results for influenza infections; the vast majority (96.6 percent) of the cases involved the influenza A, with A(H1) as the most common confirmed subtype. Only seven of the cases involved influenza B.

Those results may be evidence that composition of the 2018 flu vaccine has been effective, as it was made to target theH3N2, H1N1 and B virus strains.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend individuals get flu shots, even as the infection season hits its peak, as long as supplies are available.

As a reminder, the CDC’s best practices to prevent the spread gems include:

  • avoid close contact with sick people;
  • while sick, limit contact with others to keep from infecting them;
  • stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities;
  • cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and wash your hands afterward;
  • wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub;
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth; and
  • clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs.

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