Flu season sporadic in Virginia

The flu season in Virginia seems to be off to a slow start.

Health Director of the Lord Fairfax Health District Charles J. Devine III wrote in an email that they are currently only seeing sporadic flu activity in the region.

He added that timing for the flu season varies, which makes it unpredictable. The typical flu season lasts from November through February, but outbreaks can occur earlier and later.

“Outbreaks can occur as early as October, but most flu activity is seen in December, January and February,” he stated.

Flu season can last as late as May, he added.

“Each flu season is different, but over the last 30 years or so, flu-associated deaths each year have ranged from a low of 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people in the United States,” he wrote.

Flu-like symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue.

But there are ways to protect yourself.

“The single best thing to do to reduce the chance of flu is to be vaccinated,” he stated.

He added some individuals should talk to their doctor before vaccination, including people with egg allergies, people who have Guillain-Barre Syndrome and those who are already sick.

“The flu vaccine products available this flu season are a better match to the circulation strains of influenza we are seeing than last year, so the protections provided should be better.”

Some other ways to prevent catching the flu:
• Avoid contact with sick people
• If you are sick yourself, stay home from work and limit interaction with others to limit spreading the illness
• If sick with flu-like symptoms, stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone, unless you need medical care
• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Dispose of tissues in a sanitary manner
• Wash your hands with soap and water frequently. If this isn’t available, use an alcohol-based hand rub
• Avoid touching your eyes and nose, as germs and viruses can spread this way

Others who are most at risk include children younger than five and especially those younger than 2 years old, adults 65 years or older, pregnant women, residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, and American Indians and Alaskan Natives.

If you do get the flu, antiviral drugs are available with a prescription to treat the illness. These drugs can make the illness milder and shorten the time of sickness and can prevent more serious illness from developing, Devine stated.

“Most people who get the flu will have fairly mild illness, but anyone can develop severe illness.”

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com