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Va. flu cases double from last year; spike over past few weeks

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Posted at 11:48 PM, Dec 29, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-30 01:45:18-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- A lot of Virginians are unfortunately spending the holiday in a doctor’s office or the emergency room.

The Virginia Department of Health says the number of influenza cases has doubled from last year and has spiked over the past few weeks.

According to statistics, children ages 0-4 are the most impacted and school-aged children are the second most affected.

At Pediatric Associates of Richmond, Dr. Jeff Mapp said doctors have seen a surge in flu cases over the past week and are working longer hours to treat patients.

“We’re seeing high fever, lots of coughs and runny noses,” Mapps said. “Older kids may tell you that they’re achy.”

Doctors in emergency rooms said they are also slammed.

Dr. Jeff Mapp

Dr. Jeff Mapp

In fact, at Henrico Doctor’s Hospital- Forest Campus, Dr. Marsh Cuttino said that doctors are seeing up to 130 patients a day.

“Unfortunately, the flu vaccine was not quite on mark this year,” Cuttino explained. “Based on the numbers of patients I’ve seen, I’m not surprised that we’ve doubled the flu. It’s been quite busy here in the ER.”

While influenza cases remained steady in October and November, they began to climb at the beginning of December and spiked this past week.

However, Central Virginia has not been hit as hard as other parts of the state. Northern Virginia and Eastern Virginia are seeing the most cases of influenza.

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But with families still gathering for the holidays, doctors fear they have not yet seen the worst.

“With big gatherings, lots of family members together, and people not wanting to miss that opportunity to be together, even with people that are sick, so there’s a potential this could continue right on through the holidays for sure,” Mapp said.

Manufacturers of Tamiflu, a drug that shortens the duration of the Influenza virus, also warned that there is a shortage this year because of the number of cases.

Doctors are encouraging good hand washing, since germs tend to reside on hands and surfaces. They’re also advising affected people to sneeze or cough into their arm, instead of their hand. And for people to stay home if they are sick. That's because patients can be contagious for up to two weeks.

“You need to be careful because people are infectious for pretty much as long as they have a fever and a cough, “ Cuttino said.

The good news is doctors aren't having to admit as many patients this year to the hospital and those who've received the flu vaccine are experiencing milder symptoms.