Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Find a flu shot before the flu finds you, health officials warn

Virginia Health officials are warning Williamsburg residents to get their flu shots before it's too late.(Courtesy photo/U.S. Air Force)
Virginia Health officials are warning Williamsburg residents to get their flu shots before it’s too late. (File photo/U.S. Air Force)

Have you got a fever, a cough or a sore throat? You’re not alone.

As the flu spreads across the country, Greater Williamsburg has not been spared.

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

“Every week shows a little more of an increase of influenza across the state,” Dr. William Berg, director of the Peninsula Health District, said.

In Greater Williamsburg, about 80 percent of the cases have been a less severe strain of flu called “H1,” Berg said.

The other 20 percent of cases have been a serious strain of the flu that’s predominant across the nation, Berg said.

The “H3” strain of the flu is much more serious, especially for the elderly and children.

“H3 is more likely to lead to hospitalization or even death,” Berg said.

While vaccines are the best method of protection, they are not 100 percent effective.

Flu vaccinations had an effectiveness rate of about 32 percent, Berg said, getting a flu shot can be “life-saving.”

“It still helps,” Berg said. “Instead of being dead you’re in the hospital, instead of being in the hospital you’re home in bed.”

Healthcare providers around Greater Williamsburg still have flu shots available to the public.

A spokesman for Riverside Health System did not respond to multiple requests for comment, however, Riverside is offering free flu vaccinations for people 14-years-old and older on a first come, first served basis while vaccine supplies last, according to its website.

The free flu shots are available without an appointment.

Sentara family medicine and internal medicine practices have the vaccines for $75 out of pocket, but individuals without insurance can get the shot for $37.50, according to Sentara spokeswoman Kelsea Smith.

While data fluctuate on how many Americans die annually from the flu, during the 2012 to 2013 flu season an estimated 56,000 people died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Basic measures such as washing hands frequently, staying home when sick, and coughing into sleeves or tissues can help stem the flu from spreading further.

If you do get the flu, it’s prudent to see a doctor within 48 hours, according to Berg. Medicine such as Tamiflu are most effective in that time period and can provide a critical boost to recovery for vulnerable groups.

That being said, the best way to protect against the flu is to get the vaccine.

“Even though flu is all around us, you can still get the vaccine and still get protected,” Berg said.

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