Health officials: Flu ‘widespread’ in Virginia

Flu activity has reached the “widespread” stage in Virginia, and activity also has increased lately in the Central Shenandoah Health District. Local health departments are seeing an increase in case reports, and local hospital emergency departments and urgent care centers in the health district are also starting to see cases.

“The flu season got off to a somewhat slower start this winter, so it may last longer into the spring,” said G. Douglas Larsen, M.D., director of the Central Shenandoah Health District. “The good news is flu vaccine is still in good supply and now is an excellent time to see your doctor, local pharmacist or visit your health department to get a vaccine.”

This year’s vaccine appears to be a good match to the strains of flu that are circulating at this time, and is expected to offer very effective protection against the flu. Flu vaccine is available at no charge to eligible low-income uninsured persons at your local health department. The Central Shenandoah Health District will be conducting free flu vaccine clinics for the public. Anyone ages three and over can receive a vaccine. Those under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

These specially scheduled free flu vaccine clinic schedules are as follows:

  • Harrisonburg-Rockingham – Monday, Jan. 24, 9 a.m. to noon, call 540.574.5100
  • Lexington – Friday, Jan. 21, 9 a.m. to noon, call 540.463.3185
  • Staunton – Wednesday, Jan. 26, 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3:30 p.m., call 540.332.7830.

Free flu vaccines will be given on a first come, first serve basis. The availability of free vaccine following these clinics will be dependent on supply.

Influenza, or “the flu,” is a highly-contagious respiratory disease. Typical flu symptoms include fever, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache, muscle aches, and extreme fatigue. The seasonal flu in southwest Virginia usually peaks in January and February but can last into May and cases can occur at lower levels throughout the year. Each year in the United States approximately 200,000 people are hospitalized due to flu illness, and flu-related deaths range from 3,000 to 49,000 each year – averaging 24, 000 – over the last three decades. Annual vaccination is recommended for everyone over six months of age.

“We can spread the flu virus to other people for up to 24 hours before we even feel sick, so getting vaccinated is not just about protecting yourself, it’s about protecting the people around you,” said Dr. Larsen. “Your children, grandchildren, grandparents, or neighbors may be at much greater risk of becoming very ill or even dying from flu. So getting the vaccine helps protect them, too. The death from flu last week of an unvaccinated teenager from neighboring North Carolina underscores the importance of taking action now.”

For more information, call your local health department listed below or visit vdh.virginia.gov. To get a vaccination call your doctor, pharmacy or call or walk in to your local health department:

  • Augusta-Staunton Health Department, 1414 North Augusta St., Staunton, 540.332.7830
  • Bath Co. Health Department, Court House Square, Warm Springs, 540.839.7246
  • Buena Vista Health Department, 2270 Magnolia Ave., Buena Vista, 540.261.2149
  • Harrisonburg-Rockingham Health Department, 110 North Mason St., Harrisonburg, 540.574.5100
  • Highland Co. Health Department, Fleisher Ave., Monterey, 540.468.2270
  • Lexington-Rockbridge Health Department, 300 White St., Lexington, 540.463.3185
  • Waynesboro-Augusta Health Department, 211 West 12th St., Waynesboro, 540.949.0137

Edited by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at freepress2@ntelos.net.


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