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A new year brings new flu cases to NNY

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Influenza is so widespread in Northern New York that the Jefferson County Public Health Service cannot even keep up with the number of confirmed cases.

Jefferson County health planner Faith E. Lustik said the last total the agency had was 733 laboratory-confirmed cases as of Dec. 12. Ms. Lustik said she couldn’t even guess what the number would be now because there are several new confirmed cases being reported in the county daily.

“It’s too many now,” she said.

Cases will continue to rise, she said. As children return to school from holiday gatherings and travel, Ms. Lustik said, the virus most likely will spread more rapidly.

Meanwhile, Laurie B. Maki, St. Lawrence County public health preventive services supervisor, said although the numbers aren’t as dramatic in her county, they’re steadily increasing.

“All emergency rooms here are reporting flu cases,” she said. “Three of our long-term care facilities in the county have reported outbreaks also. If people are sick, they really shouldn’t visit anyone in the hospital or a long-term care facility.”

She said there were 182 confirmed flu cases as of Dec. 22. Widespread throughout St. Lawrence County, Mrs. Maki said, flu cases now occur daily there.

That is also the story in Lewis County, where there have been 225 confirmed cases.

“On average, we’re getting five to six cases a day, and it’s completely throughout the county,” said Marcia M. Ashline, Lewis County supervising public health nurse.

While the typical flu season peak isn’t until around February, Mrs. Ashline said, Lewis County will just be more prepared then.

Area public health agencies, she said, also could use a little help from people who have yet to get the vaccine. Flu vaccines are available at pharmacies throughout the north country, and some are available at public health agencies, for a fee.

“One phone call we got from the state is that it seemed like a number of confirmed cases were from people who didn’t get the vaccine,” Mrs. Maki said.

Ms. Lustik said there have been few influenza B cases. Most influenza cases in Jefferson County — and most of the north country — are influenza A.

Statewide, the flu has been reported in 57 of 62 counties and in the five boroughs of New York City. There has been one pediatric death in the state and six nationwide.

According to the state Department of Health’s most recent statewide influenza surveillance report, dated Dec. 22, there have been 10,721 confirmed flu cases for the 2012-13 flu season.

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