Early testing for influenza symptoms critical this flu season

As flu season picks up steam across the country, it’s important for people to be tested very early after symptoms that are compatible with influenza start, since there are effective treatments that can limit severe, life-threatening disease and curtail transmission to others.

That advice comes from Paul Skolnik, M.D., Chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine, Carilion Clinic and Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and an infectious diseases specialist.

“The same drugs used to treat influenza can also be used to prevent influenza in those who have been significantly exposed to family members or others diagnosed with influenza, which is another reason that early testing and evaluation by a physician is especially important this year,” said Skolnik.

This year’s flu vaccine is only partially effective, since the main strain of influenza circulating now, H3N2, is not represented in this year’s vaccine. Still, it’s not too late in the season to consider getting vaccinated.

“We recommend that everyone get an influenza vaccination, including at the current time, since it does provide important protection for H1N1 influenza strains that are also causing illness now which can be severe or life-threatening.”

Based on the Virginia Department of Health weekly influenza activity report, flu activity in the Commonwealth is listed as widespread, based on data the week ending January 6, 2018.  That indicates outbreaks of influenza and laboratory-confirmed influenza exist in at least half the regions of the state.

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