Fairfax County health official warns against coronavirus panic

Coronavirus updates may dominate international and national headlines, but health officials in Fairfax County, Virginia, want to remind the local community that there have not been any confirmed cases in the area.

“There have been no cases that have occurred in Virginia. There have been no cases in D.C. and also no cases in Maryland,” said Dr. Benjamin Schwartz, Fairfax’s director of epidemiology and population health.

But, Schwartz said, that fact hasn’t stopped many people from being scared — sometimes too scared. That fear has prompted people to act out of prejudice.

“I’ve been asked by friends if they should be careful about touching products that come from China, or if they should go out and eat at a Chinese restaurant,” Schwartz said. “I think it’s important we don’t let fear govern our actions. It’s important not to treat people who are Asian or who are Chinese differently and, certainly, there is no reason to avoid stores, restaurants, products that may be associated with China.”

What residents should be worry about is flu season.

“It’s been a long flu season in Northern Virginia. We’ve had widespread activity for about 12 weeks now,” Schwartz said.

The first part of the season saw a majority of cases of Influenza B. Cases of that are now starting to go down, but cases of Influenza A are on the rise.

According to Schwartz, this new influenza virus that is affecting the community now is one that more often affects children and young adults, while still causing a lot of illness in the elderly and people with underlying immune issues.

He said this year looks to be the one of the more severe ones the region has had in a long time.

“It’s still not too late to get influenza vaccine. Many people who don’t get vaccinated back during the fall, now that we have something to worry about, perhaps its extra incentive to go get your flu vaccine today,” he said.

Schwartz also offered tips to avoid getting the flu or, if you have it, to avoid spreading:

  • If you do have to cough or sneeze, cover it with your sleeve. Don’t use your hand, where the secretions can then contaminate your hand, and you can touch other people or other surfaces.
  • If your hands do get contaminated with secretions, wash them — and wash them well — with soap and water. Schwartz recommends about 20 seconds to make sure you clean your hands thoroughly.
  • If you are sick, stay home until you are well so you don’t spread it to others.

See WTOP’s coronavirus FAQs for more information.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2020 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up