Staying Healthy During Flu Season
The 2022-2023 flu season (the colder months from October to May) is showing signs of being the most extreme in years. This is in addition to outbreaks of other viral respiratory infections such as Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection (RSV) and COVID-19. We know that respiratory viruses cause illnesses that include coughing, sneezing, body aches, fever, and runny nose. There are a few easy steps that everyone can take to slow the spread of these viruses.
Get a Flu Vaccine Every Year
Everyone 6 months of age and older should be vaccinated against the flu. The Alexandria Health Department (AHD) encourages everyone to get a flu vaccine as an important step for personal and community health.
If you are pregnant, you can and should receive the flu shot during any trimester. Pregnant people are at higher risk of flu-related complications. If you get immunized during pregnancy, the antibodies will help protect you and your baby for up to 6 months after birth. For more information on receiving the flu shot while pregnant, visit the CDC’s website.
If you are 65 or older, you are at higher risk for serious complications of the flu, so ask your healthcare provider about flu vaccines designed specifically for seniors like the high-dose flu shot and be sure to get vaccinated. The Alexandria Health Department has compiled a list of local providers that carry both COVID-19 and high-dose flu vaccines.
Where to Get a Flu Shot
The Alexandria Health Department offers walk in vaccination appointments Wednesdays starting at 10AM. Flu shots will be available at no cost, and proof of residency or insurance is not required. If you are having difficulty making an appointment or need support in a language other than English, contact 703.746.4988. If you are unable to make it to an AHD flu clinic, you can always receive a flu shot at:
- Doctor’s offices or clinics
- Drug stores
- Grocery stores with a pharmacy
Regardless of where you get your flu shot, there are some things you can do to make sure your trip is successful:
- Call ahead to check that vaccines are available and whether an appointment is required. If you have insurance, ask whether they accept your provider.
- If you’re 65 or over, ask if the provider has the recommended high dose vaccine for seniors .
- Don’t get a flu shot if you’re currently sick, wait until you feel well.
For questions, call the Alexandria Health Department at 703.746.4888.
The Flu and Other Viruses
While it’s recommended to get a flu shot by the end of October, vaccination can still provide important protection later, during the peak winter months of flu season. Because a flu shot does not protect against COVID-19 and a COVID-19 vaccine does not protect against flu, it is important to get both shots. Find a COVID-19 vaccination and booster clinic near you. You can get a flu shot no matter how recently you have gotten a COVID shot, and you can even get both at the same time.
Influenza (flu), COVID-19, and RSV are all contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. Because some of the symptoms are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on just your symptoms, and you might need testing to confirm your diagnosis. Regardless of which virus you may have, there are steps you should take to help prevent getting other people sick too in the “Preventing the Spread of Germs” section of this page.
For more information about the flu versus COVID-19, check out the CDC's webpage on the topic.
Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection (RSV)
Respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH-uhl) virus, or RSV, is a common virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults. RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia (infection of the lungs) in children younger than 1 year of age in the United States.
Preventing the Spread of Germs
There are some steps you can take right now to avoid getting sick, and if you do get sick, these steps will also help you avoid getting anyone else sick. Because there is not currently a vaccine to protect against RSV, it is especially important to follow these steps when you are sick to protect the very young and the very old in your life.
Cover Coughs and Sneezes
- Cough and sneeze into your elbow. This prevents germs from getting on your hands, which then leave germs on the things you touch like doorknobs, handrails, and light switches. Viruses can survive on these surfaces for several hours.
- If you use a tissue to cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, throw the tissue in the trash after you use it and then wash or sanitize your hands.
Stay Home When You are Sick
- If you or your child is sick, have them stay home! You or your child should be fever-free for at least 24 hours before returning to work or school. A fever should be gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine (like Tylenol).
- If you are sick, do not visit loved ones in the hospital, nursing homes, etc. People with certain health conditions are more likely to have complications that result in hospitalization or even death. Limiting contact with other people as much as possible while you are sick keeps you from infecting them.
- If you have to be around other people, wear a well-fitting mask at all times (except while sleeping).
Wash Your Hands
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Visit www.flu.gov for more information or read the CDC 2022-2023 Flu Season FAQ
- Weekly influenza activity estimates are available at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Influenza Summary Update Map and the VDH weekly activity report
- Help track flu in our area: visit Flu Near You for more information.