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Flu takes toll on area

An unusually active flu season has made its presence known across the commonwealth, leading to a dramatic number of absences in local schools and what Director of Piedmont Health District Dr. H. Robert Nash refers to as a “second wave” of influenza season.

Nash says part of the reason this flu season seems particularly rough has to do with the two types of the flu the area has seen and the timing of each type.

According to Nash, this year’s flu season began four to five weeks earlier than last year. Although the severity of the flu has not been as bad as the previous year, the main strain of flu virus seen at the beginning of the season up until December was Influenza B virus (Flu Type B).

Nash said the area normally sees a majority of Influenza A virus (Flu Type A) early on in the season, with Flu Type B appearing in the later months. Since the area hasn’t seen a predominant Flu Type B outbreak since 1993, individuals 25 years-old or younger were hit particularly hard, as their bodies had never encountered the strain.

Nash said that Flu Type A has taken over the numbers in the past week, triggering a second wave of incidents.

“It’s like a two-peak thing. We had the peak just before Christmas break, and then when the schools came back in it started creeping back up, but now it’s a different virus,” he said.

Nash was hopeful Flu Type A saw its peak between Friday, Jan. 31 and Monday, Feb. 3, but said only time will tell if cases are finally slowing down.

Meanwhile, local schools have felt the impact of this two-round influenza battle.

Superintendent of Lunenburg County Schools Charles Berkley Jr. said the school system is hoping to see a decline in flu cases this week, although he did see an increase in numbers last week.

Berkley also said that the school received an email Monday, Feb. 10, advising that students carrying the influenza virus may not show signs of a fever. Despite not carrying the usual outward signals of the flu, students complaining that they feel unwell should still be assessed and sent home if need be.

The school system has performed sweeps of “extreme cleaning” to try to combat an outbreak and will continue its efforts as the season continues.

Nash said the Piedmont Health District Office has set up a conference call with all local school superintendents every Thursday morning along with the district epidemiologist and district emergency manager to share updated data and recommendations.

He added it is not too late for residents to get their flu shot, which is generally effective after two weeks of being administered. However, he recommends that individuals aim to get their annual flu shot in October.