As influenza quickly spreads throughout the state, north country public health agencies fear an early peak of the flu season is near.
As of Tuesday, the north countrys flu-season total reached 886 confirmed laboratory cases, with 733 in Jefferson County, 123 in Lewis County and 30 in St. Lawrence County.
Its the earliest flu season in recent history, said Faith E. Lustik, Jefferson County Public Health Service health planner. Itll spread even more as people travel, shop and are around each other more often.
She said that of the cases in Jefferson County, 307 have occurred since Dec. 1.
The north countrys flu season typically peaks in February, but public health officials fear that by then, the number of confirmed cases will have skyrocketed.
According to the state Department of Health, influenza has been reported in 47 of the states 62 counties. Generally, the flu season runs from October to May. While last years season was mild throughout the state, there still were 1,167 flu-related hospitalizations and one pediatric death.
This season, there has been one hospitalization in Jefferson County, Ms. Lustik said. No flu-related hospitalizations have been reported in St. Lawrence or Lewis counties thus far, but officials in those counties say flu is likely to spread from Jefferson County.
St. Lawrence County Public Health Director Susan J. Hathaway said county residents go down to Watertown to shop and will be exposed to people. Thats why we recommend people get their flu shot. The report Ive seen from the state just from the preceding week is mainly influenza A, and a lot is in children.
Lewis County Supervising Public Health Nurse Marcia M. Ashline said, Some of our residents are working in Jefferson County, so it can cross county lines, and numbers here can increase as well.
Lewis County Public Health sees several new cases every day.
Because it takes two weeks for a person to receive immunity, health officials encourage people who havent gotten the flu shot to do so now, especially to help protect people around the holidays. Ms. Lustik said the flu vaccine is a good match this year.
Even if people who received the vaccination get the flu, Ms. Lustik said, it tends to be more mild than if they hadnt gotten the vaccine.
The flu going around features high fevers and fatigue, and people are generally pretty sick, she said.
The adult influenza vaccine is available through St. Lawrence County Public Health for $20. Jefferson County Public Health Service, however, is out of the adult dose of the vaccine. Lewis County Public Health is still able to offer it for $35. The vaccine is available through many pharmacies and stores in the three counties.
According to the state Department of Health, the virus can spread through coughing or sneezing, (and) it is important that family members and people who regularly come in contact with young children or individuals at high risk for the disease get vaccinated against influenza.
Children younger than 6 months cannot get the vaccine.
For more information about the flu, visit the Department of Health website, www.health.ny.gov.