CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia is one of 36 states reporting widespread flu activity at the start of 2018, a number that jumped from 23 states in the week before Christmas.
The Mountain State was categorized as having “high ILI (influenza-like illness) activity” after previously being in the “moderate ILI” category in the latest FluView report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“I’d say since Christmas we’ve had an increase in the number of people who are testing positive for flu, plus the number of people who are coming in with, what we call, influenza-like illness,” reported Julie Miller, administrator for the Boone County Health Department.
January is the usual starting point for flu spikes across West Virginia with the peak following in February.
Miller said the case numbers in Boone County was “typical” for this time of year, but added, “I think maybe it’s a little bit more.”
Howard Gamble, administrator for the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department, said, thus far, the flu season had been following its typical trends in Ohio County and surrounding areas.
“This is when we begin to see our traditional seasonal flu cases begin to spike,” Gamble told MetroNews.
“It’s mimicking the trend line of what we would see at this time of year. It’ll begin to peak towards the February month.”
A drop should follow at that point, Gamble said, unless there are outside factors introduced like a “novel” flu virus or high numbers of people who haven’t been vaccinated.
In Ohio County, Gamble said the flu had been confirmed at a long-term care facility as of Monday.
Nationally, flu activity has been above an established baseline for five weeks with H3N2 being the predominant strain.
Gamble said it’s not too late to get a flu shot to protect yourself and those around you.
“We vaccinate all the way up until summer and that’s because we’re an international travel clinic, so we have people hopping off all across the globe,” he explained.
For flu prevention, state officials have recommended vaccination as the “first line of defense against the flu” even though there are indications this year’s vaccine may only be 10 percent effective.
Additionally, covering coughs and sneezes, practicing good handwashing habits and staying home when sick could help prevent the spread of influenza, health officials said.
In Boone County, Miller said they had plenty of flu vaccines.
Her personal prediction was that West Virginia was in for a severe flu season.
“Based on what people are saying when the do get sick and how sick they are and how they feel bad for more than a week or two, I’d say that we may have a bad flu season,” Miller said.
Australia which is often used as a flu forecaster for the U.S. just wrapped up one of its most severe flu seasons in five years.