Hospitals across central Virginia are seeing an increase in patients coming in with the flu.
The Thomas Jefferson Health District (TJHD) says several counties are being hit hard during the ongoing flu epidemic. Officials say there are currently four different strains of the flu going around. The newest strain, H3N2, is known to be particularly strong, and even deadly in some cases.
"The symptoms are stronger, so temperatures like fevers are higher. It may last a little bit longer. It has a bigger impact on individuals with underlining health conditions, or in their age range," explained Ryan McKay with TJHD.
The district says the city of Charlottesville, Albemarle, Greene, and Louisa counties are experiencing "widespread flu activity."
"It's still going to last another six or seven weeks," McKay said.
The University of Virginia Medical Center says 111 patients were reported with flu symptoms at the hospital last week. Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital saw 70 patients with the flu, with 17 of those people needing to be hospitalized.
"We've seen an increase in patients with influenza-like illness coming to our emergency departments," said Andrea Chapman with Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital.
The difference between a cold and the flu is that symptoms for influenza are more extreme and often do not go away on their own.
"Certainly, sometimes it's hard to tell and differentiate. So the main message is to seek care if you are having respiratory systems that aren't going away on their own," Chapman said.
Doctors can confirm if you have the flu by using a cotton-swab test, or by just discussing your symptoms.
Now that the flu is in peak season, physicians say protecting yourself with basic hygiene is critical: "Wash your hands, of course. Keeping your hands clean with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a great way to prevent all types of infection," said Chapman.
The Thomas Jefferson Health District is holding a free flu clinic at its location on Rose Hill Drive from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, January 30.