It’s early in the flu season and already West Virginians are getting hit hard by the illness all thanks to the special Type A Influenza Virus Subtype H3N2 strain.
“When this type of flu occurs it tends to be more deadly and just causes more hospitalization and more devastation ,” said Kanawha Charleston Health Department Executive Director Dr. Rahul Gupta. “We’re seeing already a bad year and it’s early in the cycle.”
Nationwide around 2,500 people have been hospitalized and several deaths have been reported with this virus. In West Virginia, there is around 3,500 cases of influenza type symptoms per week and hundreds of cases per week in the Kanawha Valley alone.
The last time we had this bad of a flu strain was back in the 2003-2004 flu season when around 49,000 people died.
Dr. Gupta said however, this time around with the strain is different.
“Back then, not enough flu vaccine supplies and not a good match,” said Gupta. “This year, plenty of flu vaccine supplies and there is a real good match in the vaccine strain.”
This is why Gupta urges people who haven’t gotten their flu shot to get it as soon as possible. But even people who get the flu shot still have a chance of catching the virus.
Dr. Gupta said people need to remember some simple steps to diminish their chances of getting the flu.
“Wash your hands frequently, don’t touch stuff, stay away from people’s direct line of coughing or sneezing and just be cautious,” said Gupta.
Gupta also recommends people not drinking or eating out of material that other people are using, especially if they are sick.
The sooner someone gets the flu vaccine the better they are because it takes around two weeks for one’s immunity to get built up.
Gupta said young kids, senior citizens and anyone who has medical conditions like diabetes should especially get the shot because they are at the highest risk of catching the virus and of becoming seriously ill.
Around 250,000 people are hospitalized each year nationwide because of the flu.
Dr. Gupta said people can get flu shots from a lot of different places including their doctors, pharmacies and by stopping at the Kanawha Charleston Health Department.
“Anyway, doesn’t matter,” said Gupta. “The important thing is get your flu shot.”
Residents can stop by the Kanawha Charleston Health Department located across the street from the Civic Center anytime between normal business hours of 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to get a flu shot. Business hours will be extended to 6 p.m. on January 14 and 23.
To find out more information call the Kanawha Charleston Health Department at 304-344-5243.