Virginia among the states experiencing widespread flu activity

Virginia among the states experiencing widespread flu activity
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that Virginia is one of 33 states currently seeing high levels of flu activity. (Source: WDBJ)

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) - The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that Virginia is one of 33 states currently seeing high levels of flu activity.

WDBJ7 sat down with Carilion's medical director of infection control, Dr. Anthony Baffoe-Bonnie. He said that last year's major spike didn't begin until January and February, but this season they started seeing more and more cases pop up in early December.

"But we're still on the upward trend," he said.

Though most of the country is experiencing widespread flu activity, it's hard to know exactly where we are in the season.

"I can't tell whether the flu season will be a short one or a long one," Baffoe-Bonnie said. "So it's difficult to say with certainty where we are in terms of it, but we are in the middle."

Influenza A and Influenza B are the two most common types of flu. Currently, it's the B strand that is more dominant.

"Usually it's A this time of year and then getting into the tailend of the season it's B. This is a little bit on the different side," he explained.

"Is one influenza worse than the other?" WDBJ7 asked.

"No, it's only worse when you are not immunized or you have not been exposed to it at all," he said.

He also showed us what they're noticing on the local level.

"We're seeing more younger than older persons with influenza in our out-patient areas," he said, pointing to the graphic on his computer screen.

Pediatrics and geriatrics are the two groups that are at a higher risk of getting the flu.

"[Children] do not have the immune system or have not been exposed to the virus before and therefore, when they are exposed to it, they get very sick," he said.

Locally though, Carilion says they've not seen many severe pediatric flu cases.

"They are getting influenza, but they are not being admitted or getting that sick."

The other high risk group of individuals are elderly seniors.."The more mature geriatric population may have other medical conditions which makes a small illness tip them over," Baffoe-Bonnie said. "We are seeing that even though the number of cases in the more mature population is less than the younger population, the admissions into hospitals are more for the older population."

He added that getting your flu shot every year not only decreases your risk of getting the flu, it can also decrease the severity of your symptoms if you do.

"We are not seeing much of hospitalizations for the flu at all. Therefore, even though the season is widespread, or we have widespread disease, we don't necessarily have very severe disease, at least in this area."

"And that's a good thing?"

"That's a great thing." he laughed.

The other bit of good news is this year’s flu vaccine is still very relevant to keeping you healthy so there’s still time to get your flu shot and get your kids their shots.

Practice good hand washing and coughing etiquette. Use soap, warm water, and sanitizers. Cough into your elbow or a tissue and throw it away.

If you do think you're coming down with the flu, visit your primary care physician immediately.

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