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Hurry up! Get your flu shot

06 January 2017

For the second consecutive week, the flu is "widespread" in Virginia, according to the state's Department of Health. "DHEC and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that everyone 6 months and older, especially people at high risk for developing serious complications from flu, get vaccinated each season". Pregnant women and those with chronic health conditions are also considered high risk.

With the flu season underway in the United States, new surveillance data shows that influenza activity has been slowly increasing nationally since starting low in October.

Though local doctors have yet not seen the typical explosion of flu cases in the beginning of the year, Connolly said, that will quickly change as more people return from holiday travel and go back to school and work.

Flu season, which began three months ago, can last through April, meaning that people who are not vaccinated will be susceptible to the nasty bug for quite a while.

This season's flu, the H3N2 strain, is known for more severe illness and deaths and is the one that struck in 2014-15, said Paul Throne, a state Department of Health spokesman. The week-to-week totals are subject to change as additional reports of the flu are confirmed positive. Although CDC officials recommend that everyone 6 months and older receive the flu vaccine by the end of October to prevent getting sick this season, as of early November of 2016, about 60% of the U.S. population still had not received the seasonal flu shot.

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Most people experience a mild illness, but it can develop into a severe infection that results in hospitalization and death. Mumps and influenza share some symptoms, such as fever, headache, muscle aches, and fatigue, but these symptoms are usually worse with the flu.

"The flu" refers to a range of influenza A and B viruses that typically circulate in North America from early November to April. There are also flu vaccines made to protect against an additional B virus.

Other flu shot locations are available at http://VaccineFinder.org. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, since hands may become contaminated with live virus.

Area infectious disease specialists say people can prevent the spread of the virus with proper coughing and sneezing etiquette, thorough hand-washing and staying home when sick. See When to Get Medical Help for Flu Symptoms. The predominant flu strain is AH3 which is affecting mostly older people rather than younger age groups.

Hurry up! Get your flu shot