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Flu is widespread throughout the state, including NNY

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CANTON - As influenza quickly spreads throughout the state, north country public health agencies fear an early peak of the flu season is near.

As of Tuesday, the north country’s flu season total reached 886 confirmed laboratory cases, with 733 in Jefferson County, 123 in Lewis County and 30 in St. Lawrence County.

“It’s the earliest flu season in recent history,” said Faith E. Lustik, Jefferson County Public Health Service health planner. “It’ll spread even more as people travel, shop and are around each other more often.”

She said of the cases in Jefferson County, 307 have occurred since Dec. 1.

Typically, the north country’s flu season peak is in February, but public health officials fear that by then the number of confirmed cases will skyrocket.

According to the state Department of Health, influenza has been reported in 47 of the state’s 62 counties. Generally, the flu season runs from October to May, and while last year’s season was mild throughout the state, there were still 1,167 flu-related hospitalizations and one pediatric death.

This season, there was one hospitalization in Jefferson County earlier on, Ms. Lustik said. No flu-related hospitalizations have been reported in St. Lawrence or Lewis counties thus far, but officials in those counties say flu is likely to spread from Jefferson County.

St. Lawrence County Public Health Director Susan J. Hathaway said county residents “go down to Watertown to shop and will be exposed to people. That’s why we recommend people get their flu shot. The report I’ve seen from the state just from the proceeding week is mainly influenza A, and a lot is in children.”

Because it takes two weeks for a person to receive immunity, health officials encourage people who haven’t gotten the flu shot to do so now, especially to help protect people around the holidays. Ms. Lustik said the flu vaccine is a good match this year.

Even if people who received the vaccination get the flu, Ms. Lustik said, it tends to be more mild than if they hadn’t gotten the vaccine.

The flu going around features high temperatures and fatigue, and people are generally “pretty sick,” she said.

The adult influenza vaccine is still available through St. Lawrence County Public Health for $20. The vaccine is available throughout many pharmacies and stores in the three counties.

According to the state Department of Health, the “virus can spread through coughing or sneezing, (and) it is important that family members and people who regularly come in contact with young children or individuals at high risk for the disease get vaccinated against influenza.”

Children under the age of 6 months cannot get the vaccine.

For more information about the flu, visit the Department of Health website, www.health.ny.gov.

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