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.
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.