- The Washington Times - Friday, February 15, 2008

RICHMOND (AP) — Virginians are in bed with the flu, and health officials say the outbreaks won’t end any time soon, so it’s not too late to get a flu shot.

The Virginia Department of Health reported that influenza is officially widespread in every district, which means flu cases are at their highest of five levels.

Department spokeswoman Michelle Peregoy said yesterday that the state cannot track the number of cases because many sufferers don’t seek medical help and so few cases are confirmed by a laboratory.

But the state gets updates from hospital emergency rooms and health clinics about the patients they are seeing with flulike symptoms: high fever and a cough or sore throat.

Miss Peregoy said doctors are seeing several strains of Type A and also Type B and said that is “all the more reason to get a flu shot, because the strains are all over the board.”

One of the worst outbreaks is winding down at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, said Dr. James C. Turner, executive director of the school’s Elson Student Health Center.

Dr. Turner said that as of late Wednesday, university health officials had treated 445 cases of the flu since mid-January.

Students returned from winter break in mid-January, then began “mixing and mingling for a week or two, and it simply exploded,” Dr. Turner said, with campus health care workers seeing 25 to 35 cases a day. That has fallen to eight or nine cases a day.

State health officials have confirmed that the predominant strain on campus is Type AH3, which is characterized by fever, headache, sore throat, cough and body aches that sufferers describe as “like being run over by a truck,” Dr. Turner said.

Ninety percent of students with this flu strain did not get a flu vaccine this season, which Dr. Turner notes is good motivation to get one.

Miss Peregoy said it is too early to say which influenza strain is predominant across Virginia — all the more reason for a vaccine, since the flu season runs into April.

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