Va. health officials warn of increased respiratory illnesses; Greenspring says no new cases

The Virginia Department of Health said it’s receiving an increased number of reports of respiratory illness throughout the state compared to previous years, adding that most of those reports are among older adults and those with chronic medical conditions in assisted living and long-term care facilities.

The reports are statewide and involve different diseases.

That includes pertussis (whooping cough), influenza, Haemophilus influenzae infection, Legionnaire’s disease and pneumonia caused by rhinovirus or human metapneumovirus.

“A variety of germs cause respiratory illness, some with increased activity in summer months,” State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA, said in a release. “We encourage everyone to take steps to minimize the severity and prevent spreading illness to others.”

The news follows on the heels that three people died and dozens more were sickened by an upper respiratory illness at Greenspring Retirement Community in Springfield.

The Fairfax County Health Department said Friday that it continues to monitor the outbreak.

But the agency had good news: There have been no new illnesses reported in the assisted living and Garden Ridge areas for the last few days, and residents who have been ill are recovering.

The county health department also said the cause of the illnesses has yet to be identified.

“To avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others, it is important to wash hands thoroughly with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing,” Oliver said. “To help prevent the spread of germs, avoid close contact with people who are sick. Anyone who is sick should stay home, except when seeking medical care. If you develop difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, immediately seek medical care.”

There was also an outbreak of respiratory illnesses at Heatherwood, an assisted-living facility in Burke, but officials said Wednesday there was no evidence linking the two outbreaks.

Per the Virginia Health Department: Certain groups are especially vulnerable for developing severe respiratory illness, including young children, adults 65 years or older, those with chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and heart conditions) and those with weakened immune systems.

Extreme heat, such as the heat wave Virginia is currently experiencing, can also be dangerous for older adults and people with heart and lung diseases.

Tips to avoid heat-related illness include drinking plenty of water, keeping cool indoors, dressing for the heat and limiting physical activity, especially in the middle of the day.

For more information about heat-related illness, see the Virginia Department of Health’s website.

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Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Writer/Editor for He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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