by Madison White Franks
KILMARNOCK—Although cases of flu have been confirmed locally, health officials here do not consider it an epidemic.
“Epidemic is a term used frequently to describe flu season this year, but it’s better to describe the flu as widespread this season,” said Three Rivers Health District director Dr. Richard Williams.
Northern Neck Free Health Clinic nurse practitioner Tamara Hall said there has been one positive flu test at the clinic in the past two weeks.
“We are not seeing it as much as everyone else,” she said.
She said some patients are coming in with flu-like symptoms, but they are not testing positive for the flu.
According to Northumberland Public Schools director of instruction Amy Lamb there have been five confirmed cases of the flu at the elementary school and one confirmed case between the middle and high school.
“There have been no spikes in absences compared to last year,” reported Lancaster assistant school superintendent Dan Russell.
Dr. Williams said the predominant strain of flu in the Northern Neck is Influenza A, H1 type.
“This [type] is proving to cause a less serious illness than the H3 type flu that is affecting much of the U.S., including central and western areas of Virginia. This may change and we may see the H3 type flu increase in our area as the flu season progresses,” he said.
“It is difficult to know how many people have influenza in a community because many people recover from influenza at home without visiting a healthcare provider, many people who go to a healthcare provider do not have laboratory testing conducted and not all cases of influenza are reported to public health authorities,” said Dr. Williams.
“Flu can cause serious illness requiring hospitalization and can even be fatal in the worst cases,” he continued. “If anyone suspects they have the flu, they should contact their physician quickly. Antiviral agents can be effective in shortening the course of the flu and in making the disease less serious.”
To prevent the flu, people should get their flu shot, wash their hands frequently, and limit exposure to other people who might be sick, said Dr. Williams.
“We do believe you should get the flu shot and we provide them at the clinic,” said Northern Neck Free Health Clinic executive director Jeannie Nelson.
“Contact your doctor early if you think you might be coming down with the flu,” said Dr. Williams. “It can be difficult to tell if you have the flu or a common cold. Flu symptoms include rapid onset of dry cough, fever, aches and pains in your muscles and joints, headache, nasal congestion, sore throat and severe fatigue. Nausea and vomiting can also occur.”
He said a doctor can do a rapid flu test by swabbing your throat or nose to determine whether or not you have the flu.