State epidemiologist talks illness prevention during the holidays

VIRGINIA – Sneezing, coughing, and sniffling are things some of us have already started to do this year.

According to the Virginia Department of Health, COVID-19 and flu cases are on the rise across the region.

Despite the uptick in cases, vaccination rates are still low.

Buena Vista is the only area in the region with a COVID-19 vaccination rate of over 12%. Flu vaccination rates are a bit higher, with Roanoke, Botetourt, Rockbridge, and Nelson counties all around a 25% vaccination rate.

With Thanksgiving gatherings just days away, State Epidemiologist Dr. Laurie Forlano recommended that people take precautions.

“One of the most important rules for the dinner table I think is that if you’re sick stay home if you can do that,” Dr. Forlano said.

Vaccines can also prevent illness spread, and it’s not too late to get them. The Department of Health reports only 10.8% of adults 18 and older in Virginia are vaccinated against COVID-19 and 23.9% are vaccinated against the flu.

“Talk to your doctor about the choices that you have this year,” Dr. Forlano said. “We have three vaccines this year which has not happened before. So, you can get vaccinated for COVID and Flu, and certain populations can get vaccinated for RSV as well.”

Dr. Forlano said RSV is the respiratory illness affecting the most people right now. Luckily, a new vaccine is on the market for infants, pregnant women, and adults older than 60. It could be a tool that’s vital this winter.

“It can keep you safe and healthy, but it can also help protect the ones you love,” Dr. Forlano said. “Especially populations that can’t be vaccinated.”

About the Author

Amy Cockerham joined the 10 News team in January 2023.

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