Health officials are urging the public to take preventive measures against seasonal influenza, which has burst upon the scene earlier—and stronger—than previous years.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that most of the country is experiencing high levels of flu-like illnesses, with 41 states reporting widespread influenza activity.
“More persons are seeking medical care,” said Dr. Janice Verley of Nassau University Medical Center. “Almost double than the usual baseline for flu season.”
The number of reported cases in New York State is staggering. More than 15,000 positive influenza laboratory results have been reported to the state department of health during this flu season compared to 4,404 last season.
As of Dec. 31 in Nassau County, there were 1,214 confirmed cases of Influenza A, the strain accounting for most of the illnesses this season, and 193 confirmed accounts of Influenza B. Data for Suffolk County wasn’t immediately available.
“While we can’t say for certain how severe this season will be, we can say that a lot of people are getting sick with influenza and we are getting reports of severe illness and hospitalizations,” Dr. Joe Bresee of the CDC said in a statement.
Officials from the CDC, county health departments and local doctors say the best way to combat the virus is through vaccination.
“The side effects of the vaccine are generally mild or limited,” said Verley.
For the stubborn type that refuse to get inoculated, doctors recommend a thorough scrub and practicing good hygiene. Those with a cough and the sniffles should wash their hands regularly, officials said. Those who come down with the virus should do their part to prevent the illness from spreading by staying home from work or school.
Influenza has already been blamed for the deaths of 18 children nationwide.
The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone six months and older. Babies under six months can’t be vaccinated so parents are urged to get vaccinated to prevent spreading the illness to their child.
Those most at risk to contract influenza are people over 50, pregnant women, anyone with a weakened immune system and children younger than 2.
Google’s Flu Trend map. Different colors represent flu activity. NY’s flu activity is considered “intense.”