PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — The Virginia health care community is encouraging residents to protect themselves amid a surge in flu, respiratory virus cases, and hospitalizations.

In a recent release from the Virginia Department of Health, officials say this year’s flu season is already showing early, concerning signs that it may be worse than in recent years. If these trends continue, this could strain healthcare systems in some communities.

Additionally, Virginia doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare providers are already being inundated with a surge of sick patients seeking care, filling hospital beds, and in many cases requiring longer hospital stays.

Young children are being effected the most right now, and have been for several weeks.
We first told you last month about the surge at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters. The hospital reports inpatient beds are still full today.

Data from Virginia hospitals and public health surveillance suggest that the Commonwealth faces the prospect of a particularly challenging flu and respiratory disease season.

VDH epidemiologist Elena Diskin told WAVY: “[Last week] 22% of all emergency and urgent care visits for those young kids, 0-4 age group, were for flu-like symptoms and 18% of all visits for people 5-18 years old were for flu-like symptoms.”

Emergency department and urgent care clinic visits involving patient diagnoses of RSV have quadrupled since early September and remain significantly elevated. Virginia Immunization Information System data from July 1-November 9, 2022 indicates that flu vaccination uptake in children younger than 12 is lower this year as compared to the same time periods during the previous three years.

These conditions are occurring even as COVID-19 remains a significant concern – the federal public health emergency regarding coronavirus was recently extended and Virginia hospitals continue to treat an average of 478 hospital inpatients each day.

To protect yourself and your family against flu, RSV, and other respiratory illnesses, the healthcare community recommends taking the following steps:

  • Make an appointment to get a flu shot as soon as possible. Find out where you can get a flu shot in your community here.
  • Get vaccinated against COVID-19 if you have not done so already. VDH advises parents to discuss this option with their child’s healthcare provider. Find out where you can get a COVID-19 vaccine or booster in your community by visiting vaccinate.virginia.gov or call (877) VAX-IN-VA or (877) 829-4682.
  • Parents of sick children are encouraged to keep them home from school and other activities to help limit the spread of infection. Parents with sick children are also advised to initially contact a pediatrician or family physician for medical guidance unless your child is in medical distress, in which case seeking hospital care may be warranted.
  • Adults who become ill are also encouraged to stay home to limit the risk of spreading illness and to contact their healthcare provider for guidance on the appropriate course of treatment depending on the severity of symptoms and other risk factors.
  • Individuals with symptoms, or those who test positive, are encouraged to contact their healthcare providers to determine the treatment option that is right for them. This is especially true for high-risk individuals.
  • As a routine safety behavior, Virginians are encouraged to wash their hands often with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, to avoid touching their faces with unwashed hands, to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze, to limit the time children spend in large group settings with other contagious individuals when possible, and to get tested if they believe they have been exposed to illness.

Check WAVY.com for the latest updates.