DC, NoVa’s Flu Severity Level Among Highest In US (ICYMI)

Editor’s note: This article was originally posted last week.

WASHINGTON, DC — The D.C. and Northern Virginia area is a national flu hot spot, with one of the most severe levels of influenza in the U.S., according to a new report analyzing national doctor office data.

The D.C. metro area, including Northern Virginia, are in the top 10 worst metro areas in the nation this week when it comes to influenza, said Doctors Report. The findings are based on the website’s and mobile app’s Illness Tracker that compiles doctor diagnosis data reported during a seven-day period.

Influenza, more commonly referred to as "flu," is a respiratory illness caused by viruses infecting the nose, throat and lungs and can be severe and, especially for the young and very weak, be life threatening, according to Doctors Report. Flu-related illnesses that can result include pneumonia, asthma and dehydration.

Here are the top 10 metro areas in the U.S., with a severity scale, with 10 being the most severe:
1. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI, 9.5
2. Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC, 9.5
3. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA, 9.0
4. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA, 9.0
5. Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN, 8.0
6. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL, 7.5
7. Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD, 7.0
8. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV, 7.0
9. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX, 6.5
10. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA, 6.0
11. Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD, 5.5
12. Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI, 5.0
13. Pittsburgh, PA, 5.0
14. Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI, 4.5

When it came to Flu A, a different category of influenza, D.C. and NoVa fared a little better, dropping to No. 10.

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Here is Doctors Report’s current severity rankings for Flu A:
1. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL, 8.5
2. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA, 7.0
3. Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD, 7.0
4. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI, 6.0
5. Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC, 6.0
6. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA, 5.5
7. Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI, 4.5
8. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL, 4.5
9. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX, 4.0
10. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV, 4.0
11. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA, 4.0
12. Pittsburgh, PA, 4.0

The particularly bad season is attributed to infections from a flu strain known as H3N2. It doesn’t respond well to vaccinations and is particularly dangerous to young children and older adults over the age of 65.

Here are tips to avoid the flu and curb its spread, provided by the Centers for Disease Control:

Stay home if you are sick. With the exception of seeking medical care, do not go out until 24 hours after your fever has subsided without the use of medication. Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub. Clean and disinfect surfaces that may have become contaminated with germs. Avoid others who are sick. Cough or sneeze into a tissue. Throw away tissues after use.

To treat the flu, use over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen or cough syrup to relieve symptoms. Rest in bed and drink lots of fluids. If you contact your doctor within 48 hours of onset of symptoms, you may be able to take an antiviral drug, which will reduce the severity of symptoms and length of the illness.

You can be contagious from one day before and up to seven days after becoming sick.
So far, the 2018 flu season has not reached historic levels, but it is on par with the worst flu season in recent years, the 2014-2015 season. As with any flu virus, the people most at risk are the elderly, children under five, pregnant women and people with chronic diseases.

Reporting by Kimberly Johnson

Patch Editor Deb Belt contributed to this report.

Photo via Shutterstock

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Claudette Patterson