While Alexandria is known for being a giving community, there are times when we need to not only keep what we have, but go to great lengths to do so. Flu season is such a time.
Per our story on page 1, “Flu strikes Alexandria,” even in this worse-than-usual flu season, Northern Virginia is being particularly hard-hit. While the normal baseline for people presenting with Influenza Like Illness at any given time is 2.2 percent of people seeking medical care, nationwide it’s currently 6.6 percent. Statewide 6.1 percent of those seeking medical care have ILI and in Northern Virginia it stands at 8 percent. It’s not clear that this is even the peak.
As sick area residents fly all over the world from our three regional airports, we are exporting the strains circulating here, primarily H3N2, and receiving other variations from travelers to our nation’s capital. While free trade of goods is beneficial, it’s all right to be protectionist when it comes to a potentially deadly virus.
In this region full of high-powered overachievers, many of us like to view ourselves as indispensable in our jobs. In reality, we are not. And we help no one by “powering through” instead of staying home when we are sick.
The stories this flu season are simply worse than most. There’s the cousin who ran a fever for 13 straight days, the friend whose case went into pneumonia or, tragically, the little boy who died over the weekend in rural Virginia.
Flu facts in a nutshell:
– Three schools in Alexandria City Public Schools have been particularly hard hit, according to ACPS spokeswoman Helen Lloyd: Patrick Henry, James K. Polk and George Mason elementary schools.
– The flu season typically lasts about 16 weeks, and we are only in week eight. In the last three weeks reported cases of ILI have spiked.
– It’s not too late to get a flu shot – provided you can find someplace that still has it in stock. Unfortunately, the vaccine may not protect you fully or from all strains.
– Prescription Tamiflu, an antiviral medication, can help shorten the duration of the flu and can help ease the severity of the symptoms, but there are no guarantees – and the medication is expensive.
All of us, young and old, healthy or frail, need to take precautions against the flu. If you haven’t received a flu shot and are not allergic to eggs (the vaccine contains traces of egg), consider taking the time to get one. Wash your hands immediately after returning home and before eating. If your immune system is compromised or you have symptoms and have to travel, wear a mask to protect yourself and others. Cough into your sleeve to avoid sending your germs into the air.
But most importantly, if someone in your family is sick, they should stay home. Parents, please follow the recommended protocol and don’t send your sick child back to school until they have been fever free without fever reducers for at least 24 hours.
Alexandria is all about giving, but if you’ve got the flu, please keep it.