December 1, 2021

Flu avoids us … so far

Only two confirmed cases in Cortland County

Nick Graziano/contributing photographer

Amber Freelove, right, a nurse at Djafari Pediatrics, places a bandage on 10-month-old Graysen Holcomb, being held by his mother, Bailey McCarthy, after he got his flu shot.

While influenza has been on the rise across the state, Cortland County has seen little activity in the last couple of months. But that could change.

There have only been two confirmed cases of the flu, so far — one in late October and the other in early November — said county Health Department Director Catherine Feuerherm.

It’s less than Cortland’s surrounding counties, she said, and the county has yet to see the increases the state is reporting. Cortland’s numbers are usually steady with its surrounding counties, she added.

The reason why is random, at the moment, Feuerherm said. “We know it’s coming.”

The more tests done for the flu, the more cases might be found, she said.

“It’s too early to tell what the season will look like or who may be impacted the most by this year’s strain,” Feuerherm said. “We also don’t know how effective the vaccine will be.”

Now is a good time to get a flu shot, she added.

This week is National Influenza Vaccine Week — highlighting the importance of the flu vaccine. The sooner one gets the vaccine, the more likely one will be protected against the flu, according to the Tompkins County Department of Health.

Flu activity usually peaks between December and February in the United States and can last as late as May. The flu can cause serious complications for children younger than 5, pregnant women, people 65 and older and people with certain chronic health conditions, according to the Tompkins County Health Department.

For the week ending Nov. 24, the state Health Department reported 253 confirmed cases of the flu, a 25 percent increase from the week prior. There were 93 people hospitalized because of the flu that week, a 15 percent increase from the week prior.

There has been one flu-associated pediatric death in the state this flu season, according to the state Health Department.

Every year, 5 to 20 percent of the national population gets the flu and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications, according to the state Health Department.

The flu causes about 12,000 to 56,000 deaths each year. About 90 percent of them are with people 65 or older.

Last flu season saw a record number of deaths and people hospitalized across the nation due to the flu, with an estimated 80,000 deaths and 900,000 people hospitalized, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The flu usually spreads person to person when someone with it coughs or sneezes. Sometimes people get the flu because they touch an object or surface with flu virus on it — and then touch their mouth or nose, according to the state Health Department.

“Stay home if you’re sick,” Feuerherm said. It is one way to help prevent the flu from spreading.

Hand washing is still key to containing the virus.

“Call your doctor to see if antiviral medication is right for you,” Feuerherm said. “This can significantly reduce your symptoms.”