By Mary Wade Burnside
Times West Virginian
An early gift arrived this holiday season for some area residents — culture-confirmed influenza.
Eleven confirmed cases of flu were found in Marion County as of Dec. 21, said Donna Riffle, director of nursing at the Marion County Health Department.
She did not have a breakdown of whether those were adult or children with the confirmed cases.
Also in that time frame, the area saw 24 influenza-like illnesses (ILI), basically, people with flu symptoms who may or may not have had the flu, and then an additional seven (ILI) for the week ending Dec. 29.
“We’re starting to see quite a bit of flu,” said Bob White, regional epidemiologist with the Monongalia County Health Department. “We’re widespread.”
White echoed the same message as Riffle: “It’s still not too late to get your flu shot, and if you are ill, stay home and wash your hands to prevent the spread of illness.”
According to Shannon McBee, influenza coordinator for the Division of Infectious Disease Epidemiology in the state’s Bureau for Public Health, 31 states are reporting widespread flu activity, including West Virginia.
“It’s unusual in the fact that we’re seeing influenza cases so early,” McBee said. “Typically, our season peaks at the end of January or mid-February. It’s unusual seeing such a drastic increase in the number of cases and those reporting with ILI and flu, which really picked up in the second week of December.”
Whether or not the season will get worse remains to be seen.