Flu cases have been increasing as this year’s flu season has yet to reach its peak.
According to data from the Virginia Department of Health, the flu has been at a “widespread” activity level, the highest level, for six weeks, while the percentage of people seeking treatment at an emergency department for influenza-like illness reached a season high at 5.5 percent.
Both the activity level data and the emergency department data are from the week ending on Feb. 2, the most recent data available.
Dr. Colin Greene, the director of the Lord Fairfax Health District, said that with flu season having yet to reach its peak this year, people should make sure to get the flu shot if they haven’t already.
“It takes about two weeks for the flu shot to take effect, but since the number of cases are still on the rise and rather sharply on the rise over the last couple of weeks, it’s not too late,” Greene said.
The health district is offering free flu shots at any of its offices between 8:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. and between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on weekdays excluding federal holidays. Addresses to the health district’s offices are available at www.vdh.virginia.gov/lord-fairfax/district-offices.
Greene added that people visiting the Clarke County health clinic should visit on Monday or Tuesday, but that elsewhere people can come in any day of the week. He added that the health district still has “quite a few doses” of the flu vaccine remaining.
“One of the reasons we’re offering it at no cost to the patients now is we’d like them to be into people’s arms rather than sitting on the shelf,” Greene said. “We’d like them to be out there preventing disease and preventing the spread of disease rather than just sitting in inventory.”
People can also receive a flu shot from a pharmacy or a health care provider.
In addition to getting the flu shot, Greene recommended that people who are sick should stay home and avoid contact with high-risk groups like elderly people, young people, people with chronic illnesses and pregnant women.
“One of the most important things if you’re sick with a fever is to not go to work,” Greene said. “Some people think they’re indispensable in their jobs, but you’re really not doing your co-workers or your customers any favors if you go to work when you’re sick.”
Greene added that people who get the flu should consider going to their health care provider within the first two days of their illness.
“There are medicines that can shorten the course of the illness,” Greene said.
People should also practice good hygiene habits to prevent the spread of the disease, he added.
“If you cough or sneeze, you do it into your elbow, and you wash your hands frequently, and you don’t share utensils,” Greene said.