RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — As the temperatures start to cool down and viruses start to pick up — local doctors are urging people to get their flu vaccine.
Dr. Preeti Dube, Divisional Chief Medical Officer for cardiovascular care at JenCare Senior Medical Center, said the facility has already begun to see a rise in patients with respiratory illnesses — and is expecting cases to continue to rise in the next coming weeks.
“We’ve been seeing a slight increase, especially with the change in weather, of these respiratory illnesses coming to our clinic,” she said.
According to the weekly Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report, Washington D.C. is in the “red zone,” meaning it has a high flu activity level. Virginia is seeing low infection rates compared to D.C., but given how close it is to the nation’s capital, Dr. Dube said it’s still worth it for Virginians to get the shot.
“We have a lot of our people in Virginia who travel to the D.C. area, and because of the travel and interaction of people, we could see a quick uptick,” she said. “The more and more people take the vaccine, the better the immunity is across the community.”
Health leaders are also worried about flu and COVID cases increasing at the same time, which could overwhelm doctor’s offices and hospitals across the Commonwealth.
“We encourage walk-ins, so we see a lot of patients that will just come in to us and say hey they’re not feeling well. Then we’ll test them for both COVID and flu,” Dr. Dube said.
Dr. Dube encourages children and pregnant women, as well as those who are immunocompromised or have chronic medical conditions to get the flu shot, because those groups are highly prone to health complications from the virus without the vaccine.
Dr. Dube adds the risks of hospitalizations and death are higher for older adults, as 89% of flu-related deaths happen to people ages 65 years and up. That’s why Timothy Grantham said he’s gotten a flu shot every year for the past ten years.
“The flu has been with us for God knows how long and we have a preventive method to help alleviate that, and I take it just because of that,” said Grantham. “It works well for me. It keeps me safe for the entire year.”
If you’re sick, stay home, wash your hands and disinfect common areas with sanitizer.