State health officials are urging the public to take extra precautions before school starts next week to prevent the spread of the flu.
“As children return to school, West Virginia could see further increases in flu activity and influenza outbreaks in schools,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, State Health Officer and Commissioner for the Bureau for Public Health.
Gupta was appointed to the position in late December and assumed the role at the beginning of the New Year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared a flu epidemic earlier this week. According to a news release from the state Department of Health and Human Resources’ Bureau for Public Health, West Virginia is among the states with widespread activity and the predominant strain of influenza circulating is influenza A H3N2, which is associated with more severe illness and mortality, especially in older people and young children.
State officials say during the month of December, 35 influenza outbreaks were reported to the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health. One of the hardest hit populations have been school-aged children.
“West Virginia is already seeing high levels of influenza activity across the state and West Virginians should expect high levels of flu activity for weeks to come,” Dr. Gupta said. “This flu season is shaping up to be a severe one in the Mountain State.”
The Bureau for Public Health has offered several preventive steps you can take to fight the flu:
- Get a flu shot. It’s not too late. While the flu vaccine this year does not match the dominant strain (H3N2) circulating, it can still protect you against other circulating strains and reduce the chances of developing flu related complications.
- Wash your hands frequently, cover your cough and sneeze into your sleeve if you do not have a tissue.
- Wipe down frequently touched surfaces with a disinfectant.
- STAY HOME when you are sick.
Flu symptoms include quick onset of fever, body aches, extreme tiredness and dry cough. Persons who may be suffering from influenza-like symptoms should see a medical provider right away.