Flu season shows no sign of slowing in DC area

Flu season remains in full swing with patients still flooding urgent care clinics with the telltale symptoms of the flu.

Maryland, Virginia and D.C. are all seeing elevated levels when it comes to the number of confirmed cases of the virus being reported by doctors.

Dr. Mark Paster, director of Patient First in Alexandria, said with only about two months to go in the season, this season is expected to be worse than last year’s.

“We’re approaching March and getting increasing numbers and not decreasing, so that definitely tends to lead to a more severe season,” Paster said.

As of March 2, widespread flu has been reported for seven straight weeks in Maryland. In Virginia, it’s been 10 weeks at the highest level. Since it isn’t a state, D.C.’s highest level is “local activity” and it has reported that for five straight weeks.

The most common strain seen by doctors continues to be Influenza A. Paster said he is also seeing some strains of the illness that don’t appear to be adequately covered by this year’s vaccine.

“The people who got the vaccine definitely seem to be less sicker than the people who did not,” Paster said.

Paster also said his office is seeing the normal symptoms of flu, which include fever, headache, body aches, fatigue, nose congestion, sore throat as well as sneezing and coughing. Cases of stomach flu, which comes with pain in the abdomen are also being seen.

For many, healthy people treating the symptoms with over the counter medicine, drinking plenty of liquids and resting will do the trick.

Paster warns the very young and the elderly, or others with conditions which put them at higher risk for complications, should see a doctor when the symptoms begin.

“By starting on the anti-viral medication we can reduce the severity of the illness and lessen the duration of time that you’ll be ill,” Paster said.

The flu can be deadly, with Maryland reporting 30 deaths connected to the illness this season. In Virginia, a peak week of 62 deaths was seen but, unlike Maryland, that number also includes people who died from pneumonia.

In Virginia, two pediatric deaths have been attributed to the flu this season. One child died of the illness in Maryland. No pediatric deaths have been reported in Washington D.C.

Paster believes to stop the spread, everyone should be washing their hands frequently and covering their mouths and noses when coughing or sneezing.

“If you’re exhibiting symptoms, please don’t go to school, don’t go to work, stay home,” Paster said.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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