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Flu cases decline statewide, still occurring locally in north country

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LOWVILLE — The state Department of Health announced last week that influenza no longer is prevalent statewide, but a few laboratory-confirmed cases continue to occur in the north country.

Although the department reported influenza had been prevalent for more than four months, local public health officials have said the virus is turning into a year-round issue. It has been considered seasonal.

“It went from being widespread to being regional,” Penny A. Ingham, Lewis County Public Health director, said about a state report for the week ending May 31. “There were 30 counties, plus New York City, that had lab-confirmed influenza. It’s still out there, but a 33 percent decrease from the previous week.”

The number of cases typically begins to decline a couple of months sooner, she said. For the week ending May 31, both Lewis and St. Lawrence counties reported no laboratory-confirmed influenza, but Jefferson County did, Mrs. Ingham said.

Now also is the time to remind the public that while the number of lab-confirmed influenza cases is on the decline, that does not necessarily mean influenza will be gone soon, she said. Many people do not get tested for the virus, and let it run its course, she said.

Those who are not vaccinated may suffer from extended or more severe symptoms, such as a fever of 100 degrees or higher, a cough/sore throat, a runny/stuffy nose, headaches, body chills, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

According to the state Health Department, it is “atypical to have high numbers of cases reported during the latter part of the season.”

People still can prevent themselves from receiving the flu, or become less sick from it, if they get the vaccine, but there is not much time left, health officials have said. Available vaccines expire June 30, and then manufacturers work on developing the vaccine for the 2014-15 flu season.

While flu cases continued to occur well into 2014, Mrs. Ingham said, overall, those cases were considered milder, but there were many local residents 50 and older who were hospitalized with complications.

There were no flu deaths reported in Lewis County, but Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties reported a couple each.

For more information about the flu, visit www.flu.gov.

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