Virginia Department of Health warns of increase in respiratory illnesses

Virginia Department of HealthSince the end of flu season in May, the Virginia Department of Health has received increased reports of respiratory (breathing) illness across the Commonwealth greater than observed in previous summers.

Most of the reports have occurred among older adults and those with chronic medical conditions in assisted living and long-term care facilities. The reports involve different regions of the state and different diseases, including pertussis (whooping cough), influenza, Haemophilus influenzae infection, Legionnaire’s disease, and pneumonia caused by rhinovirus or human metapneumovirus.

“A variety of germs cause respiratory illness, some with increased activity in summer months” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA. “We encourage everyone to take steps to minimize the severity and prevent spreading illness to others.”

Dr. Oliver continued, “To avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others, it is important to wash hands thoroughly with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing. To help prevent the spread of germs, avoid close contact with people who are sick. Anyone who is sick should stay home, except when seeking medical care. If you develop difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, immediately seek medical care.”

Certain groups are especially vulnerable for developing severe respiratory illness, including young children, adults 65 years or older, those with chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and heart conditions) and those with weakened immune systems.

Extreme heat, like Virginia is currently experiencing, can also be dangerous for older adults and people with heart and lung diseases.

Tips to avoid heat-related illness include drinking plenty of water, keeping cool indoors, dressing for the heat, and limiting physical activity, especially in the middle of the day. For more information about heat-related illness, see www.vdh.virginia.gov/news/public-relations-contacts/severe-weather-preparedness/extreme-heat-and-heat-related-illnesses/.

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