Flu season begins early


BUCKHANNON — According to West Virginia State Epidemiologist Shannon McBee, “West Virginia is experiencing a historically early start of flu season.” Flu and other illnesses such as RSV and COVID are also still circulating. Vaccinations are still recommended and available to combat the spread of illness this flu season.

Flu symptoms vary but the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shares that common symptoms include fever, chills, feeling very tired, body aches, sore throat and headache. It is also noted that not everything with the flu will present with a fever. Influenza can be mild or severe and is different from a cold. Flu symptoms also come on suddenly.

The CDC recommended vaccination every year. Flu is spread from person to person by coughs and sneezes. The incubation period for flu is between one and four days. This is the time it takes to get sick after being exposed to the flu. Vaccination and good hand hygiene are so important to stop the spread as even healthy adults can spread the flu as early as one day before exhibiting any symptoms. The flu virus is contagious for up to seven days after becoming sick, however children may spread the virus for longer than seven days.

Testing for flu is available and the CDC says, during an outbreak, if a few people test positive for flu, then the outbreak is probably due to flu.” There are treatments in the form of antiviral drugs that attack the flu virus and those individuals with severe flu illness or underlying health conditions should speak to their doctor about antivirals per the CDC.

Influenza can have complications including pneumonia, dehydration and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes. The CDC shares that children may get sinus problems or ear infections as a complication from the flu.

Death is also a risk with flu illness. On Friday November 11 the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), Bureau for Public Health confirmed the first influenza-associated pediatric death for the 2022-23 flu season. An announcement was made and declared that to protect the family’s privacy, no details of the death will be released including the child’s name, hometown, county, age and gender.”

Other information from the announcement included that “those who are very susceptible to flu and its complications include children under the age of five years old, the elderly and people with underlying health conditions (e.g., diabetes, asthma, etc.). Infants under six months of age cannot receive the influenza vaccine. The best way to protect them is to have everyone who will have contact with the infant receive a flu vaccine and limit an infant’s exposure to large groups of individuals.

“Now is the ideal time to get your flu shot, as West Virginia is experiencing a historically early start to the flu season. The flu vaccine is the first line of defense to protect yourself and people around you who are vulnerable to the serious effects of the flu. We urge all West Virginians 6 months of age and older to get vaccinated against the flu,” said Shannon McBee, State Epidemiologist.

Precautions were also listed. Individuals can do the following to protect against the spread of flu and other viruses such as:

• Staying home when sick until fever-free for at least 24 hours

• Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then discarding the tissue promptly

• Washing hands frequently, preferably with soap and water

Further information can be obtained by visiting https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/keyfacts.htm or https://oeps.wv.gov/flu/pages/default.aspx. To find a flu vaccine near you contact your physician, pharmacy or visit https://www.vaccines.gov/find-vaccines/.

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