Flu widespread in Virginia for second week in a row, state health official says

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For the second consecutive week, the flu is “widespread” in Virginia, according to the state’s Department of Health. (file photo)

For the second consecutive week, the flu is “widespread” in Virginia, according to the state’s Department of Health.

For the week that ended Dec. 31, flu was widespread in the commonwealth, according to data collected by the health department and released Thursday. 

For the week that ended Dec. 24, Virginia was one of eight states with “widespread” flu activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

At this point in 2016, flu activity in Virginia was at “regional levels,” according to the health department’s report. Under the CDC’s definitions, regional outbreaks are confined to at least two but fewer than half the regions in a state. Last year, flu wasn’t widespread in Virginia until late February, the report said.

“Flu is very unpredictable,” Influenza Surveillance Coordinator Sarah Fenno said in a phone interview.

The health department relies on three indicators to determine the prevalence of the flu, Fenno said. Officials track lab reports, reported flu outbreaks and emergency room or urgent-care visits.

All regions in the state are seeing increases in flu-related emergency-room visits and urgent care visits, according to email from Fenno.

Flu symptoms include fever, cough and a sore throat.

The most common flu virus circulating this season is known as AH3N2. Based on data gathered by the CDC, this virus and the current flu shot are a good match.

“So that’s always good news,” Fenno said. “But it’s also not too late to get vaccinated.”

A flu shot is the best way to avoid getting the virus, she added.

Other prevention tips include washing your hands, covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough, and keeping the environment around you clean.

For more on the flu vaccine, go here.