The western region of New York State is reporting more flu cases this year than at the same time last year, according to Univera Healthcare’s review of state health data.
As of Nov. 18, the western region – including Western New York and parts of the Finger Lakes – has so far reported around 0.8 flu cases per 100,000 people. By the same week last year, the region had reported less than 0.1 flu cases per 100,000 people.
“Most of the flu cases being reported now are from the Influenza A strain, which is a component of this year’s flu vaccine,” said Dr. Richard Vienne, Univera vice president and chief medical officer. “The annual flu vaccine is designed to protect against three or four flu strains during a season.”
Vienne said different flu strains can circulate at different times during a flu season that can extend late as May, so he advised that it is never too late to get a flu shot.
During the 2016-17 flu season in New York, only half of the population ages 6 months and older got the flu vaccine. The health of the community hinges on increasing that percentage, especially this year, when the number of reported flu cases is on pace to exceed last year’s total.
“A flu shot not only protects you from getting the flu, but also it protects others from catching the flu from you,” Vienne said in a news release. “There’s a community benefit to an individual getting a flu shot.”
Statistically, every 100 people who get the flu will infect 127 others. Someone with the flu can infect other people one day before any symptoms develop, and up to about seven days after they become sick. The virus can spread to others up to about 6 feet away, mainly by microscopic droplets expelled into the air when people cough, sneeze or even talk.
For some people, the flu results in a fever, the chills, body aches, cough, and a runny nose. But for the very young, the very old, women who are pregnant, and individuals with compromised immune systems, catching the flu can place them at high risk for much more serious complications, including death. And, it isn’t always obvious who among us is most vulnerable.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in the 2015-2016 flu season, the flu vaccine prevented approximately 5.1 million cases of the flu in the U.S., 2.5 million influenza-associated medical visits, 71,000 hospitalizations, and an estimated 3,000 pneumonia and influenza deaths.
The CDC recommends annual flu vaccines for everyone 6 months and older. It takes about two weeks after being administered for the vaccine to provide protection. Call your doctor or visit vaccinefinder.org to find a flu shot location near you.