With the COVID-19 pandemic still in full force and influenza season now starting, it’s more important than ever that everyone do their part to help prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses.
Health experts urge everyone 6 months of age and older to get a flu shot this year and every year.
Flu vaccination will reduce symptoms that might be confused with those of COVID-19. And preventing and reducing the number of illnesses, hospitalizations, and intensive care unit admissions from flu will also help alleviate stress on the health care system.
“Flu season is coming at a time when COVID-19 still is affecting many individuals in our health district,” said Fairfax Health Director Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu. “To limit the possibility of widespread transmission of both viruses occurring in our communities at the same time, it is vital that everyone get their flu shot.”
Like COVID-19, influenza or flu, is a contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus. When someone who has the flu sneezes, coughs, or even talks, the virus passes into the air and may be breathed in by anyone close by. People can also get the flu from touching something that was contaminated by secretions from someone who has the flu.
People who are sick with the flu will often experience symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headaches and fatigue. Most healthy adults who get the flu will recover in a few days to less than two weeks, but the flu can be deadly to the elderly, those with chronic diseases, pregnant women and young children. Even if you aren’t at increased risk, some of your friends and family may be, so it is important that you get vaccinated, both for yourself and to protect others.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting a flu vaccination in September or October or before flu activity begins in your community, but getting vaccinated anytime during the flu season can help protect you, your loved ones and your community. There is no live flu virus in the injectable vaccine and it cannot cause the flu.
Getting a flu vaccine will:
- Reduce the risk of flu and its potentially serious complications. Each year thousands of people die from influenza complications; tens of thousands are hospitalized, and millions become ill.
- Help keep you and your loved ones out of a medical setting and lower your risk of COVID-19 exposure.
- Help protect frontline health care workers and conserve scarce medical resources needed to care for COVID-19 patients, such as facemasks, hospital beds and ventilators.
- Help “flatten the curve” of respiratory illnesses this fall and winter. The more people who are vaccinated, the more people are protected.
Flu vaccine is available now in the community, including at pharmacies, doctor’s offices, and grocery stores. Most health insurance plans cover flu shots for free.
The Health Department is offering flu shots for children and adults at the following locations by appointment only:
- Joseph Willard Health Center — 3750 Old Lee Highway, Fairfax
- Mount Vernon District Office — 8350 Richmond Highway, Alexandria
- Herndon-Reston District Office — 1850 Cameron Glen Drive, Reston
To make an appointment, call 703-246-7100, TTY 711.
The flu vaccine offered at the Health Department protects against four different strains of the flu and is preservative- and latex-free. To ensure safety, strict protocols are in place and those receiving vaccine will be asked to observe proper masking and social distancing at all times.
The Health Department is also working with Neighborhood and Community Services to offer flu vaccine at five senior centers and other community locations to target elderly residents and high-risk populations this flu season.
In addition to getting vaccinated, these simple steps can help stop the spread of germs and help protect you from getting sick:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick, which will help prevent others from catching your illness.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
- Clean your hands often.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.