Sniffle, cough, sneeze: Late flu outbreak hits Virginia

Posted at 5:46 PM, Mar 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-10 19:51:02-05

RICHMOND, Va. - The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is reporting a later than normal flu outbreak in Virginia.  Currently, influenza activity in Virginia is "widespread," according to the CDC's weekly summary update.  With many Virginians beginning to experience the effects of springtime allergies, local doctors want families to watch closely for any signs of flu-like symptoms.

The number of patients experiencing flu-like illness who visited Virginia hospitals and urgent care centers has steadily climbed over the past four weeks, according to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH).  VDH officials said Virginia sees a flu outbreak every year; however, this the first time in three years it has occurred this late in the flu season.  They added there is no way to truly know when the outbreak will hit each year.

"We tend to see the flu this time of year. The flu season can go through April, but it's more noticeable this year because we didn't see the number of flu cases around the holidays we usually see," said Dr. Elizabeth Bigelow, the head physician at the Short Pump Patient First.

Bigelow said her office has seen a spike in flu cases recently.  She added this recent strand of influenza appears to hit 20-30 year-olds the hardest.  Bigelow said with allergy season ramping up, knowing how to differentiate between allergy and flu symptoms is key.

"With the flu you'll definitely get the fever, and also generalized malaise, just feeling very tired and crummy," said Bigelow, who urges anyone who thinks they have the flu to get help as quickly as possible.

Flu symptoms can vary, according to the CDC:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

VDH officials also confirmed a string of norovirus, more commonly known as a stomach bug, is spreading in Virginia.  Officials said many times spikes in cases of norovirus and influenza happen simultaneously.

Luckily, this year's flu shot is a "good match," according to health experts.  Anyone who received the shot will have less of a chance of getting the flu or experience less severe symptoms, experts said.

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