The flu is hitting Virginia hard and Hampton Roads is no exception. According to the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC), influenza cases are widespread in as many as 43 of the 50 states. The peak of the seasonal illness also appears to be continuing to rise, with an anticipated peak likely later this month or early March.
So if you haven’t gotten a flu shot, is it too late?
Definitely not, says Robert D. Bradshaw, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of EVMS Family and Community Medicine. In fact, you are still better off getting the vaccine now than trying to tough it out for the rest of the flu season.
“The predominant strain appears to be an influenza which is similar to the component of the 2016-2017 vaccine we are using which should be effective within two weeks of vaccination,” Dr. Bradshaw says. “We are seeing increased numbers of influenza like illnesses (ILI) in our clinics, and across Virginia more than 7 percent of emergency and urgent care visits in children under 18 were due to ILI.”
All ages, from infants at least 6 months to older adults are eligible to be vaccinated, though the very young and very old — along with those with chronic diseases — are most at risk.
Symptoms of flu include a high fever, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache, extreme tiredness, muscle aches, chills and sometimes vomiting and/or diarrhea.
While immunization is the best way to prevent influenza and its complications, there are some additional ways you can protect yourself from the flu and other viruses, such as:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water.
- Use an alcohol-based sanitizer.
- Cough into your elbow, not your hands.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth whenever possible.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is sick.
- Stay home when you are sick so you don't infect others.
- Avoid close contact with those who are sick.
And if you do have an influenza-like illness, Dr. Bradshaw says, it is important to seek care early since antiviral medication can be used to shorten the illness if you are seen within 48 hours of your first symptoms.
Dr. Bradshaw practices at EVMS Portsmouth Family Medicine. To make an appointment, call 757.397.6344 or visit EVMS Family and Community Medicine online.