flu season wny

Data show this flu season is bad for New York State and Upstate New York

There are more confirmed cases of flu in New York state so far this flu season than there were at this same time during the last flu season, according to a review of health tracking data by Univera Healthcare. As of February 1, the Department of Health confirmed 89,597 cases of flu, 54,554 more cases than at this time last year. This flu season has been especially difficult for children. More than 50 percent of all confirmed cases have been among children ages 17 and younger.

Upstate New York is also being hit hard by flu. During the week of February 1, there were 4,844 confirmed flu cases, with Utica/Rome/North Country experiencing the most cases this week:

  • Western New York: 1,033 flu cases
  • Finger Lakes: 913 flu cases
  • Central New York: 779 flu cases
  • Central New York’s Southern Tier: 745 flu cases
  • Utica/Rome/North Country: 1,374 flu cases

“We’ve confirmed an increase in flu activity week-over-week in our region, so we may not yet have reached the peak of this flu season,” said Richard Vienne, D.O., Univera Healthcare vice president and chief medical officer. “I can’t stress enough that it’s not too late to get the flu vaccine.” Studies support the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing flu and in reducing the severity of illness in vaccinated people who get sick. With few exceptions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone ages six months old and older gets vaccinated.

Only about one in three upstate New York adults gets the flu vaccine. Vienne believes there is a social responsibility to get vaccinated. “Someone carrying the flu virus can spread it to unsuspecting people up to about 6 feet away, mainly by expelling microscopic droplets into the air when talking, coughing, or sneezing.”

For young children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems, the flu virus can be deadly. Last year’s flu, and complications from flu, killed 34,200 people in the United States, according to the CDC.

The best way to prevent the flu is by getting the flu vaccine, but there are other methods you can use to further protect yourself. Good health habits such as covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and washing your hands with warm, soapy water often can help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like the flu. In addition, using disinfectant wipes to clean commonly used surfaces, such as door handles, countertops and the TV remote, is a great way to kill flu germs.

People who are very sick with flu, or people who are at high risk of serious complications when they develop flu symptoms, should see their doctor early in their illness for possible treatment with a flu antiviral drug. If an office visit isn’t possible, an option is to have a telemedicine visit with the patient’s own doctor or with a telemedicine provider.

“Nobody feels like leaving the house when they’re sick with flu,” said Vienne. “Telemedicine allows a patient to see a qualified physician from the comfort of their home by using a telephone, smartphone, computer or tablet. Telemedicine providers can write prescriptions and electronically send them to the patient’s preferred pharmacy.”

Most health insurers have web links to approved in-network telemedicine providers. Univera Healthcare’s website links to MDLIVE.com.

Univera Healthcare is a nonprofit health plan that serves members across the eight counties of Western New York. The company’s mission is to help people live healthier and more secure lives through access to high-quality, affordable health care. Its products and services include cost-saving prescription drug discounts, wellness tracking tools and access to telemedicine. With nearly 500 employees in Western New York, the company is committed to attracting and retaining a diverse workforce to foster innovation and better serve its members. It encourages employees to engage in their communities by providing paid volunteer time off as one of many benefits. To learn more, visit UniveraHealthcare.com.

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