After an unusually rough season, influenza cases in Northern Virginia are on the decline, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
Nationally, the 2012 flu season saw more people catch the flu than any year in recent memory, according to Google Flu Trends. The DC metro area saw its worst flu season in the past six years, but levels in Virginia and Maryland are now considered "moderate."
The decline is part of a national trend.
Erin Burns, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesperson from the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease, said influenza activity continues in the United States but has started to decline with no strengthening of any identified strands.
“Currently circulating influenza viruses are like those that have been detected all season,” Burns said Monday. “No major genetic or antigenic changes have been observed in recent circulating viruses.”
According to the VDH, more than six percent of all hospital visits in Northern Virginia between December and January were for influenza-like illnesses. Through March 16, that percentage dropped to less than four percent.
Inova Health System Chief Medical Officer Dr. Loring Flint has noticed the decline. A hospital system spokesperson couldn’t produce actual numbers. Inova Health System has hospitals in Fairfax and Loudoun counties, Alexandria, Fair Oaks and Mount Vernon.
“The volume of influenza cases throughout the system continue to decline,” Flint said.
According to the VDH, influenza spreads easily through exposure to discharges from the nose and throat of an infected person. Coughing, sneezing or talking often spreads influenza, according to the VDH.
Dr. Gordon Theisz, a family practitioner, said it has been more of a bad cold season than influenza season. Theisz, who runs Family Medicine in Falls Church, said the influenza peaked around the holidays.
“Colds and flu are thought to be more common in colder months due to people being indoors and close proximity,” Theisz said. “The best things people can do to avoid the flu and colds are to keep their hands clean and to not rub their eyes and nose. Get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids, and take medications based on symptoms if you get sick.”