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Virginia health officials urge people to get flu vaccine this year

Flu activity in the metro-Richmond area is low right now. But, as we dive deeper into flu...
Flu activity in the metro-Richmond area is low right now. But, as we dive deeper into flu season, there are some serious concerns.(Source: AP Photo/LM Otero, File)
Published: Oct. 5, 2021 at 11:06 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Flu season is here and Virginia health officials are urging people to not forget about getting their flu vaccine.

Flu activity in the metro-Richmond area is low right now. But, as we dive deeper into flu season, there are some serious concerns.

“We have the potential for a double whammy of folks with severe COVID in the hospital, folks with severe influenza in the hospital, really overwhelming or having the potential to overwhelm our health care systems,” said Dr. Melissa Viray, Richmond - Henrico Health Districts.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevent says flu activity was unusually low last year. The positivity rate was 0.2%. For comparison, the prior three flu seasons had a positivity rate between 26% and 30%.

Virginia health leaders are urging people to get a flu vaccine because we are out in public more this year.

“We don’t have a lot of people who have natural immunity and we don’t know what strains of flu are going to dominate. So we really want to avoid the dual impact of both COVID and flu as we head into flu season and head into the winter months,” said Dr. Danny Avula, Richmond - Henrico Health Districts.

Last year in Virginia, flu activity never reached widespread because of the safety measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID.

“If we see a similar strain pattern this year, we won’t have seen it last year, we will have had less exposure to it. There’s the potential for far more people to get sick this season,” said Dr. Viray.

To make the flu vaccine, Dr. Viray says health officials watch what happens in the Southern Hemisphere to see what could be coming this way. It’s not exact, but Dr. Viray says the vaccine targets three to four different strains overall each year.

“There are some seasons where it doesn’t match as well but in general even in bad match seasons there’s still an element of protection,” said Dr. Viray.

You can get a flu vaccine at your doctor’s office, a pharmacy and some health clinics.

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