April 25, 2019

Doctors: Get the flu shot

Number of influenza cases increasing in Cortland County, statewide

Shenandoah Briere

CVS pharmacist Rebecca Grella administers a flu shot on a patient Wednesday afternoon. The number of cases of influenza in Cortland County have been on the rise in recent weeks and physicians are advising most people to get the flu shot.

Dr. Laura Johnson had already treated five patients for influenza between 7 a.m. and noon Wednesday.

“Patients are complaining of fever, body ache, congestion and coughs,” she said.

Johnson, the medical director for Cayuga Medical Center’s urgent care units, said she has primarily been seeing the strain Flu A in patients. And it hasn’t been just one case scattered here and there. “Several a day,” she said.

Tammy Aiken, director of critical care and emergency services at Guthrie Cortland Medical Center, said the flu has been a daily thing at the hospital, too. “It’s pretty significant,” she said.

Of the 85-plus patients a day coming into the hospital, Aiken said around 20 people are showing flu-like symptoms.

The state Department of Health reported that Central New York saw a spike in flu cases between Jan. 12 and Jan. 26 — from nearly 20 cases per 100,000 people to 40 cases per 100,000 people.

As of the week of Jan. 19, 5,227 influenza cases were confirmed across the state, according to the state Department of Health. It was a 38 percent increase from the previous week.

There has been one flu-related pediatric death reported this season.

Pam Griffith, the supervising public health nurse for the Cortland County Health Department, said the county has seen nearly 100 reported flu cases as of Wednesday. Half of the cases involve children.

Griffith and the health department’s message: “Get vaccinated.”

Everyone 6 months of age and older who doesn’t already have the flu can get vaccinated, Griffith said.

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death.

The CDC reports that people with the flu often show symptoms including:
• Fever.
• Cough.
• Sore throat.
• Runny or stuffy nose.
• Muscle or body aches.
• Headaches.
• Fatigue.
• Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

The CDC reports that it is also important to note that not everyone with the flu will have a fever.

The virus is spread primarily through secretion, Johnson said.

People may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before they know they are sick, as well as while they are sick, the CDC reports. People with flu are most contagious in the first three to four days after their illness begins.

To cut down on the spread beyond getting the flu shot, Johnson said it’s important for people to have good hand hygiene. They should also clean surfaces as well as their cell phones, computers, tablets and TV remotes.

“Wash their hands, wash their hands and oh, did I mention, wash their hands,” Aiken said.

People should also keep their temperature under control. “Fevers can contribute to dehydration,” Johnson said.

Drink lots of fluids and stay away from others with weakened immune systems, Johnson said.

Also because the flu is a virus, antibiotics don’t work on it, Johnson said. It’s best to take over-the-counter medicines that target coughs and other symptoms while remaining hydrated.

If people are unable to control their symptoms, they should seek medical help, Johnson said.

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