Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Flu is at ‘widespread’ levels throughout Virginia

A sneeze in progress demonstrates the importance of wearing masks and covering up during the flue season (Courtesy of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention)
A sneeze in progress demonstrates the importance of wearing masks and covering up during the flu season (Courtesy of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention)

The flu in Virginia has reached “widespread” levels a month earlier this season compared to last, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Last year’s records indicate widespread levels were not reached until the end of December, while 2017 widespread levels were reached at the end of November. This graph from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention illustrates the spread of flu activity throughout different seasons and regions.

Although vaccines are the best method of protection, they are not 100 percent effective, according to Virginia Department of Health officials.

Several of the largest healthcare providers in Hampton Roads, including Sentara Healthcare, Portsmouth Naval Medical Center, and Bon Secours, released a joint statement in December urging the public to help slow the spread of the flu by wearing masks while inside doctor’s offices, medical facilities, and hospitals.

It is not uncommon for local healthcare providers to release joint public health statements, and Sentara “has teamed together with area hospitals and health systems on community-wide flu masking recommendations for a number of years,” according to Sentara spokesperson Kelsea Smith.

This chart shows that in 2017, Virginia reached "widespread" flu levels a month earlier than 2016 (Virginia Department of Health)
This chart shows that in 2017, Virginia reached “widespread” flu levels a month earlier than 2016 (Virginia Department of Health)

The “widespread” distinction is defined nationally by the CDC and refers to “outbreaks of influenza or increases in influenza-like illnesses cases and recent laboratory-confirmed influenza in at least half the regions of the state,” according to the CDC’s website. That information on flu-related activity levels is pulled from lab reports, outbreak reports, as well as data on hospital visits.

Additional measures to stem the spread of the flu include washing hands frequently, staying home when sick, and coughing into sleeves or tissues.

This article was published in partnership with our sister publication, Southside Daily.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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