Masking, facial tissue and hand sanitizer stations flanking entrances at medical facilities may get less use now that the flu season is winding down.
When the flu was widespread statewide earlier this year, health officials recommended people use masks to prevent the virus' spread. That recommendation has now been lifted after state health officials said flu cases in Virginia are down.
"According to the latest Virginia Department of Health reports, seasonal influenza-like illness activity has declined to low or minimal levels," the release states.
Flu cases showed up in more than half the state's regions in January, prompting the Centers for Disease Control and state health officials to give it a widespread designation and recommend ways to slow its spread. The latest state figures show flu cases are sporadic in most regions, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
The respiratory illness is contagious and its viruses infect the nose, throat and lungs, leading to host of symptoms from high fever to body aches. Flu season runs from December to March but can go into April and even early May, state health officials say.
Lifting the mask recommendation doesn't mean health officials want people to stop covering their cough, washing their hands and doing other things to cut down on spreading the virus, Bon Secours Health System spokeswoman Lynne Zultanky said.
"If you have flu symptoms, you should still mask up," Zultanky said Thursday. Other prevention tips, like staying home when you're sick, always apply, she added.
Each year, the flu hospitalizes more than 200,000 people nationwide, according to the state health department. More people die from flu complications than any other vaccine-preventable disease, the agency's website states.
People at highest risk for the flu includes children under 5 years (especially those younger than 2); adults 65 and older, pregnant women and those with asthma, heart disease, chronic lung disease, kidney disease, or weakened immune systems, the site says.
Canty can be reached by phone at 757-247-4832.
Masking recommendations have been lifted at local facilities, including:
Bon Secours Mary Immaculate Hospital
Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters
Riverside Doctors' Hospital
Riverside Regional Medical Center
Riverside Walter Reed Hospital
Sentara CarePlex Hospital and Orthopedic Hospital at Sentara CarePlex
Sentara Norfolk General Hospital and Sentara Heart Hospital
Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center
Sentara Freestanding Emergency Department at Port Warwick, Independence and Lake Ridge