The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY)
DOH: Flu cases decline for sixth consecutive week but still widespread
The New York State Department of Health recently announced that for the sixth consecutive week, the flu remains widespread across the State, even as the number of laboratory-confirmed influenza cases has decreased by 39 percent and for the sixth week in a row.
There were no influenza-associated pediatric deaths reported this week. Eight influenza-associated pediatric deaths have been reported for the season.
“While I am encouraged to see a decrease in the number of flu cases across New York State, it is nevertheless important to continue taking all necessary precautions to stop the spread of this virus,” Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. James Mcdonald said in a news release from the state. “Flu shots are a safe and effective way to reduce the risk of infection during flu season and there is still time to get a flu shot as the flu season typically ends in April or May.”
The Department’s Weekly Influenza Surveillance Report for Jan. 21, shows there were 4,459 cases of flu reported. Additionally, 465 people were hospitalized with influenza in New York, a 44 percent decrease over the previous week. There were five new outbreaks in long term and acute care facilities, for a total of 473 lab-confirmed outbreaks this season.
The report is available on the Department of Health’s Flu Tracker, which provides timely information about local, regional, and statewide flu activity. Nationally, the weekly U.S. surveillance report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows an estimated 17,000 deaths across the country attributed to influenza this flu season, including 91 influenzaassociated pediatric deaths. The CDC’S report also found an estimated 280,000 hospitalizations due to flu this season.
In addition to a flu shot, individuals are also encouraged to wear a well-fitting mask, especially for those who experience symptoms or live with, care for, or are considered at a heightened risk of severe illness, including children five years of age or younger, pregnant people, older adults, and those with underlying health conditions. The Department’s Jan. 21 flu report describes the underlying medical conditions of people hospitalized with influenza so far this season, including hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and chronic lung disease.
To treat influenza infections, there are antiviral medications that can be prescribed by health care providers, such as Tamiflu, which can reduce the length and severity of the flu.
Avoiding illness by getting the flu shot remains the most effective way to prevent infection and reduce the risk of severe illness for children and adults. According to research gathered by the CDC, vaccination has significant health advantages, particularly for people at risk of getting very sick, including:
It reduces the chance of people getting sick with the flu, cutting the risk of having to go to the doctor by 40 to 60 percent.
In children, the vaccine reduces the risk of severe, lifethreatening influenza by 75 percent; decreases flu-related hospitalizations by 41 percent; and cuts the risk of emergency department visits in half.
Flu vaccination during pregnancy reduces the risk of being hospitalized by an average of 40 percent and helps protect the baby from flu for several months after birth, when babies are too young to get vaccinated.
For older adults, the vaccine reduces the risk of flu-associated hospitalization by about 40 percent.
Among those with chronic health conditions, the vaccine is associated with lower rates of some cardiac events, as well as reducing the risk of hospitalization from flu-related worsening of lung diseases and diabetes.
The Department is utilizing a number of tools to increase public knowledge about the spread of flu and the importance of vaccinations as a critical prevention step, including sharing information on social media platforms Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
The flu vaccine is widely available, found at pharmacies, health clinics, and physician’s offices across the state. The Department also strongly encourages everyone who is eligible, age six months and older, to get a COVID-19 vaccine. It is safe to get both the flu and COVID-19 vaccines at the same time. To find the flu or COVID-19 vaccine location near you, visit vaccines.gov.
In addition to getting the vaccine and considering wearing a well-fitting mask when indoors or in crowds, simple preventative actions can help stop the spread of flu and other respiratory viruses:
Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Stay home when sick. Cover a cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.