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Health officials await flu spike

While there were sporadic reports of flu cases in the past two weeks, Western Tidewater Health District officials said Wednesday they are still waiting on the annual “spike.”

That’s typically in January and February, according to Amal Patel, district epidemiologist.

“Last year, our flu season started a littler earlier in December,” Patel said. “I have a feeling this year that we’ll see a normal season because we’re already at the end of December and we haven’t seen the spike yet.”

January and February are the normal flu season in Virginia.

Also, unlike last year, the Suffolk Health Department has plenty of flu vaccine on hand and Patel encouraged people to get their shot.

He said all the at-risk groups n elderly, healthcare workers n have been vaccinated and shots are now available to the general public. The cost is $28. Shots will be provided daily on a walk-in basis between 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. the remainder of this week at the Suffolk Health Department, 1217 N. Main Street.

“We still have more flu vaccine than we have people coming in to take it,” Patel said. “The initial rush is over.”

Patel noted that Virginia conducts flu surveillance, and as of Dec. 17, the last date for which data was available, activity in Virginia was defined as “sporadic.” That means that isolated cases of the flu have been confirmed in laboratories, but that there have been no outbreaks of influenza-like illnesses (fever of more than 100 degrees accompanied by a cough or sore throat) detected.

Apart from getting your flu shot, described as the “best way to protect yourself from the flu” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site, www.cdc.gove, the CDC recommends the following precautions be taken:

n Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.

n If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.

n Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.

n Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.?

n Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.