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VDH reports shift in flu season: 'We've seen strange activity'

As the flu makes its way through the population, it boosts the immunity among those who recover - an immunity that can last a few years. However, that part of the process is gone this year and potentially leaves more people than ever before susceptible to the flu.
Posted at 5:56 PM, Aug 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-04 17:56:10-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Virginia Department of Health has reported a shift in flu season this year with case counts jumping through the late spring and summer.

Lisa Sollot, VDH's Respiratory Disease Coordinator, said while case counts have been lower overall compared to previous flu seasons, activity has increased and there's no way to predict when cases will peak.

"We've seen strange activity this season, and elevated activity in times when we would not normally," Sollot said.

VDH's Influenza Surveillance tracker shows a comparison between last year's flu season and this year's flu season. According to the tracker, Virginia had "widespread" flu activity in late May and early June, followed by a brief drop, and now, another increase, last reported the week of July 30.

"This season, we've seen it actually have two different peaks, one in December and one into June and July, which is really late for flu to be occurring," Sollot said.

Sollot said there's also been a shift in the kind of influenza that is spreading.

"Influenza A is what we're actually seeing, not just in Virginia, but across the country," Sollot said. "This season we saw almost no flu-B and predominantly flu-A throughout the year."

On August 3, VDH reported the Commonwealth's first pediatric flu-related death in the Central Region. The department reports on average, three flu-related pediatric deaths are reported each year.

Sollot said flu vaccine uptake for children is reported to be lower than normal.

"CDC has estimated that coverage among children for this past season was lower than past seasons, but we're not exactly sure why that was," Sollot said.

Dr. Melissa Viray with the Richmond & Henrico Health Districts said because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many families may have delayed getting their shots.

"A lot of individuals weren't getting routine healthcare, that does means that childhood immunizations did fall behind," Viray said.

During a media briefing on Thursday, Dr. Viray said the district has not seen a "strong flu summer," but since COVID-19 struck, health experts have noticed a shift in the spread of influenza.

"The way that influenza has been behaving over the last couple of years with the pandemic has just been different than what we've seen previously," Viray said.

"We just can't necessarily predict the behavior of respiratory viruses," Sollot said.

According to a press release from VDH, State Health Commissioner Colin Green said an updated version of the flu vaccine should come in about 60 days.

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