Flu activity picked up in recent weeks and appear to have peaked last week, said Dr. David Trump, director of the Peninsula Health Department.
Trump and Dr. Jim Byrne, who practices family medicine at Sentara Family & Internal Medicine Physicians in Hampton, answered readers' questions about the flu and other circulating viruses during a live Web chat Wednesday at dailypress.com.
Here are some of the highlights:
Q: If you had the flu shot in October will that still protect you now?
Q: What's the latest in guidance on who should be treated with anti-virals?
A: Antivirals for flu are not required for every patient. It will depend on the severity of the flu illness and if you are at increased risk for flu complications. Pregnant women, the very young and the very old, and persons with some chronic conditions are at more risk of complications. Discuss it with your physician.
Q. Are there other viruses or infections going around other than the flu?
A. This is also the time of year that norovirus hits hardest. Norovirus causes an illness with nausea, vomiting and sometimes diarrhea. The good news is that it usually only causes symptoms for a day or two. The bad news is that it can be passed easily among members of a family.
Q: I've always heard that, while the flu is transmitted through sneezing or touching something infected, norovirus can be passed through food from someone who hasn't washed their hands and prepared food. Is that true?
A: Norovirus can be transmitted through ingesting food that is contaminated with the virus. It can be transmitted by touching a utensil that has been touched by someone who is ill. The best prevention is frequent hand washing and avoiding taking your hands to your mouth until you have washed your hands.
Q: The state announced there were two children who died due to flu-related complications. How can that be avoided?
A: Vaccinate children and recognize warning signs to get early treatment. In children, concerning signs would include fast or difficult breathing, bluish coloring, decreased drinking, severe/persistent vomiting, trouble waking up, not wanting to be held or return of fever when symptoms seem to be improving.
Q: Is it too late to get a flu shot this year?
A: It is not too late. It will offer protection (within about one to two weeks) for this year. It will offer protection going into next year. Just like it took several weeks for flu to peak in activity, it will take several weeks until it declines.
I would especially encourage anyone who is pregnant or planning to get pregnant between now and the fall to get the flu vaccine now. Pregnant women are at increased risk of complications of flu if they do get infected. Getting the flu vaccine while pregnant also protects your infant in the first six months of life (when the infant cannot get flu vaccine).
The Peninsula Health District still has free flu vaccine available at our Immunization Clinic at 416 J. Clyde Morris Blvd.
For those with insurance that covers flu vaccine, several pharmacies continue to be a good place to get your flu vaccine.