According to health officials, influenza has reached widespread status in Virginia, with Orange and Culpeper counties reporting multiple cases of infected individuals. At the same time, epidemiologist for the Virginia Department of Health, Daniel Ferrel says the flu started claiming victims roughly 6 weeks earlier than it did last year. Health officials are expecting individuals who live in long-term care facilities or assisted living institutions in Fauquier County to also start exhibiting symptoms associated with the illness.
“Outbreaks can be life-threatening to the young, as well as to the elderly”, warned Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District’s Daniel Ferrell.
According to the information collected so far by the health department, this year the influenza virus A H3N2 is the predominant strain. Health officials have issued a warning especially for young children under the age of 5 and individuals aged 65 and older, as this particular strain was linked to more severe illness in the past.
Fortunately, the vaccine designed to fight against this year’s outbreak does contain the H3N2 strain. Medical professionals, including Dr. Wade Kartchner, strongly recommend individuals to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Health officials usually expect to see a rise in the number of patients exhibiting flu symptoms sometime in March, said Dr. Kartchner. The U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention side with healthcare providers, as well, and encourages those older than 6 months to get the flu shot.
The aim is to keep the virus from infecting more people and reduce hospitalizations, the vaccine acting like a preventative tool for the population, especially for individuals with chronic health conditions.
Health officials issued a set of instructions to prevent individuals from coming in contact with the virus:
- Practice cough etiquette
- Cover the mouth and nose while coming in contact with infected people
- Use hand sanitizer
- Practice proper respiratory hygiene
- Avoid touching the face after visiting public places
- Disinfect surfaces in your home regularly
Ultimately, if you exhibit flu symptoms and work with either children or sick people, doctors recommend taking several days off until the illness has been properly addressed. In order to prevent further spreading, several hospitals across the country even issued restrictions, preventing potentially infected individuals from visiting patients. Nevertheless, medical emergencies represent an exception.
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