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DOH officials projecting record number of flu cases this season

Emily Burkhard
Updated: February 14, 2020 02:30 PM
Created: February 13, 2020 11:39 PM

Flu season still in full swing. In fact, New York state health officials said they're expecting a record number of cases this year.

Another 17,000 people were diagnosed with the virus this week, bringing the statewide total to just over 106,000 cases.

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 DOH officials said if these trends continue we could be looking at the highest number of cases ever recorded.

"We tend to have down years, and we've had some recently and then you know we have the upper years. I do know that the vaccine hasn't worked as well as we'd like it to,” Dr. Robert Brewer said.

Dr. Brewer is the Associate Director of Emergency Medicine St. Peter's Hospital. He said though the flu shot also isn't as effective as it usually is, it can lead to milder symptoms if people do get the virus.

"Certainly still get vaccinated. We expect to see flu uptick again probably later this winter, early spring as it usually does,” Dr. Brewer said. “We start to see a lot more influenza B at that time as well."

Though most of the time it's best just to ride out the virus at home with fever reducers and plenty of rest, Dr. Brewer said it's important to pay attention to those symptoms.

"We expect you to have a fever, we expect you to have chills, body aches and not feel well, but if you start to get really short of breath or have a lot of chest pain that becomes much more concerning to us,” he said. “Because one of the complications and the complication people often get really sick from with the flu is influenza pneumonia and that requires sometimes different treatment."

State health officials said the flu caused the death of a 28-year-old graduate student at RPI this week. Though many on social media immediately assumed coronavirus was to blame because the student was Chinese.

Despite the intense coverage of the coronavirus, Dr. Brewer said the flu is actually much bigger threat here.

"Obviously coronavirus is new and so it's in the news and people worry a lot about it but influenza's here every year and it certainly affects a lot more people, millions more people than coronavirus does,” he said.

Though we're seeing more new flu cases this week than we have in over two decades, there are a few simple tips to prevent you from becoming ill.

"Good hand washing, hand hygiene is probably the biggest thing,” Dr. Brewer said. “If you're in contact with someone who has the flu a mask is certainly going to help. It's transmitted through droplets so it's very contagious so you're going to want to be extra careful around people who are sick, especially with fevers."

If you haven't gotten a flu shot yet, it's not too late, again though it isn't as effective as it has been in years past, it can shorten the length of time you're sick and could make the symptoms less severe.

You can check flu case numbers on the NYS Department of Health website.


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