FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (DC News Now) — Health officials in Virginia urged people to get flu shots after an outbreak at Stafford High School near Fredericksburg.
526 students — nearly half of the school — were absent last week with flu-like symptoms. It’s down from about 1,000 who were out on Friday. Most had flu-like symptoms, and a number of students tested positive for Influenza A.
Activities and athletic practices at the school were slated to resume among Stafford students on Wednesday, but competitions between schools remain canceled to minimize exposure to other schools.
“They’re transmitted by droplets, which it’s very easy when people are hanging out to just send that over and that’s probably why all these kids got it at once,” said Dr. Lana Ismail, a pediatric hospitalist with Mary Washington Healthcare.
Ismail said hospital beds are full in Fredericksburg.
“Both in our outpatient setting or emergency rooms and on the inpatient setting, we’re seeing just an incredible amount of kids who are coming in with high fevers, some flu-like illnesses,” Ismail said.
She says it’s all hands on deck, and they’re making sure “even if they’re not physically in the place that we would normally have them, like in an inpatient bed or an intensive care unit, that we’re providing the care that they need, wherever they are.”
“It’s pretty uncommon to see this high of flu activity this early in the season,” said Elena Diskin, epidemiology program manager for respiratory diseases with the Virginia Department of Health.
Diskin says all signs point to a concerning flu and respiratory disease season in Virginia and across the Southeast.
“In the last few weeks more children, young children, between zero and four are seeking care at the emergency departments and urgent cares for influenza-like illness,” Diskin said. “About 14% of kids that are seeking care at emergency departments and urgent cares are going for influenza-like illness. And then for our kids between the ages of five and 18 about 8% of all emergency department and urgent care visits are being seen for influenza-like illnesses.”
She suggested “making sure that we have good hand washing, that we’re covering our coughs and sneezes and really making an effort to stay home or avoid some of those large crowds if you’re not feeling well.”
“A lot of times your body just has to fight it but the best way to treat it is to prevent it,” Ismail said.
“Getting a flu shot, it’s one of the best ways that we can stop the flu and stop the potential serious effects of flu,” Diskin said.
Several hospitals, including Inova Fairfax and Children’s National, are near or at capacity because of these respiratory viruses.