According to the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), New York State is one of ten states reporting geographically widespread flu. Along with the rest of New York State, the number of reported cases in Erie County is also on the rise.

“In the past two weeks, reported cases of influenza have jumped significantly” states Dr. Gale Burstein, Erie County Commissioner of Health.  “Similar to the 2009 flu season, the majority of those falling ill with this flu strain are between the ages of 18 and 49 years old. However, no matter what your age, you are at risk of getting influenza if you have not been vaccinated during this flu season. Everyone at least 6 months of age should receive the flu vaccine as soon as possible to stem the spread of this disease. While the vaccine is not 100% effective, it offers the best protection we have against this very serious disease.”

Burstein continues: “Frequent hand-washing is the most important health tip for all of us to remember so that we don’t spread illness. Wash your hands carefully and thoroughly with soap and water, especially after using the toilet or changing diapers, and always before eating, preparing, or handling food. When sneezing or coughing, be sure to turn away from others and use a tissue to cover your mouth or nose and sneeze into the crook or your arm, rather than into your hands.”

Influenza can lead to severe respiratory illness requiring hospitalization and in some cases can be fatal. The flu season can last as late as May due to variations in the timing and duration of the season.  As long as flu season is not over, it is never too late to be vaccinated.  Even unvaccinated people who have already gotten the flu still benefit from vaccination since the vaccine protects against 3 different flu viruses. The flu vaccine is readily available in Erie County in physicians’ offices, pharmacies and other community sites.

What exactly is the Flu? It is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses, which can cause mild to severe illness.  It is especially important for certain populations at high risk for serious flu complications to get vaccinated.  Those people include:

  • People who are at high risk of developing serious complications like pneumonia if they get sick with the flu, including individuals with certain medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, morbid obesity, and chronic lung disease;  women who are pregnant, have recently given birth or are breast feeding; and people 65 years and older.
  • People who are immunosuppressed where there body’s immune system or ability to fight off infection may be impaired or not working as effectively
  • People who live with or care for others who are at high risk of developing serious complications
  • Health care providers
  • Young children, especially those under 2 years of age

Symptoms of the Flu

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills (although not everyone with flu will have a fever); cough; sore throat; runny or stuffy nose; muscle or body aches; headaches; and fatigue. Some people may experience vomiting or diarrhea, although this is more common in children than adults.

How is the Flu Spread?

  • Flu is spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze, or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby.  Less often, a person might get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes.