NORWICH – The number of Chenango County citizens diagnosed with the flu is on the rise and is already up from last year, while the peak of the flu season in January and February still looms on the horizon. Across the state, the amount of flu cases has tallied up to a greater number than last flu season and this week alone, the percentage of flu positives has reached an elevated level in Region 2, which includes New York, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s website, flu.gov.
“We have seen an increase in the number of outpatients at our clinics and patients with flu-related complications being admitted to the hospital,” said Registered Nurse and UHS Chenango Memorial Hospital’s Infection Preventionist Gina Acee.
Influenza, more commonly known as the flu, is a virus which attacks the lungs. Flu symptoms vary in intensity, ranging from mild cases easily confused with the cold, to cases necessitating emergency hospitalizations, or even extreme cases leading to fatality.
Experts believe the flu is most commonly spread through water droplets excreted by the infected when they cough, speak, or just open their mouths. It can also be spread through the touching objects, so it is important to frequently wash hands during the flu season and avoid touching mouths or eyes.
The rate of annual flu infections directly corresponds with the number of people who have received the flu vaccine and the type of flu virus being spread. The high percentage of Chenango County residents being diagnosed with the flu is because although the specific strain of the flu virus being passed around was incorporated in this year’s flu vaccine, the strain hasn’t circulated in a while, and people’s immune systems are having a hard time recognizing it.
“One of the most important ways of preventing the spread of influenza is to always cover your sneezes and coughs with the crook of the arm or if possible, a tissue and not your hands,” said Acee. “Hand hygiene is also really important. Wash your hands after you touch things or eat. Exercise is also good. Really, anything to build up the immune system helps.”..