December 5, 2021

Keep the flu at bay

Health officials: Please get vaccinated

Photo Illustration by Todd R. McAdam

Until you get a flu vaccine, the measures to take to slow the spread of influenza are much like slowing the spread of coronavirus: Wash your hands, or sanitize them frequently; wear a mask; stay away from people if you don’t feel well.

Influenza cases are creeping up in Cortland County, causing health officials to urge residents to get vaccinated this year to prevent further demand on hospitals that are already dealing with coronavirus patients.

“We’re still going to have COVID-19 in the foreseeable future, and we’re going to have flu occurring during the normal timeframe,” said Lisa Perfetti, the Cortland County interim health director. “Either one of those by themselves can stress our health care and hospital systems, and combined will be even more impactful. Get your flu shot.”

The county has seen eight flu cases so far, Perfetti said. The first case was Sept. 24, followed by one case in October and six in November.

The state Department of Health reports on its website that getting the flu vaccine is especially important this year because it is still unclear what the risk is of getting both the flu and coronavirus at the same time.

Dr. Djafari Mohmmad, a Cortland pediatrician, said getting the flu vaccine every year is important for not only adults but children because the flu virus can be aggressive in children, adding the flu is 10 times more dangerous for children than the coronavirus is proving to be.

He also said if people don’t get vaccinated and get the flu they could end up in the hospital, causing more strain on hospitals already dealing with increasing numbers of coronavirus patients. Fifty people have been hospitalized since March — 14 as of Monday as the county watches more than 200 active coronavirus cases.

“We are quite proactive in vaccinating children and convincing parents to get the vaccine,” he said, noting more people this year have been willing to get the flu vaccine.

Tompkins County Health Director Frank Kruppa said that by getting the flu vaccine, people will avoid having to unnecessarily wait in quarantine until they get test results if they are unsure if they have the flu or coronavirus.

“Many of the precautions we are taking for COVID-19, wearing masks, keeping distance, and washing hands, will also prevent the flu. Getting your flu shot is an important step in protecting yourself, your loved ones, and others around you who may be at risk of getting severely sick from flu or COVID-19,” Kruppa said.

Tompkins County saw three people with flu in September, two in October and one in November, according to the health department. However, the numbers reported by the state don’t give the full picture of the spread of the flu because they do not include any rapid tests done in private medical offices, Kruppa said.

Kruppa said the county is reaching out to people to get the flu vaccine through bus advertising, radio advertisements and social media promotions.

Perfetti said people experiencing any symptoms of an illness, whether it is the flu, the coronavirus or something else, should call their doctor, explain how they feel and follow the doctor’s advice.

“If you are recommended to be tested, please follow all guidance of quarantine until you receive your test results to further limit the spread of these diseases,” Perfetti said.

Differences between flu and COVID symptoms

Check out: People experiencing any of these flu symptoms or other severe symptoms while having the flu should seek medical attention.

In children:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing.
  • Bluish lips or face.
  • Ribs pulling in with each breath.
  • Chest pain.
  • Severe muscle pain (child refuses to walk).
  • Dehydration (no urine for eight hours, dry mouth, no tears when crying).
  • Not alert or interacting when awake.
  • Seizures.
  • Fever above 104 degrees Farenheit.
  • In children less than 12 weeks, any fever.
  • Fever or cough that improves, but then returns or worsens.
  • Worsening of chronic medical conditions.

In adults:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen.
  • Persistent dizziness, confusion, inability to arouse.
  • Seizures.
  • Not urinating.
  • Severe muscle pain.
  • Severe weakness or unsteadiness.
  • Fever or cough that improves but then returns or worsens.
  • Worsening of chronic medical conditions.