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Two adult influenza-related deaths reported in Jefferson County

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WATERTOWN - Jefferson County Public Health Service reported Monday that two Jefferson County residents, both between the ages of 40 and 55, died after having laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza.

The deaths are the first two reported in the county this influenza season.

Public Health spokesman Stephen A. Jennings and Supervising Public Health Nurse Patricia A. Esford would not disclose if the residents had received an influenza vaccination or the date of their deaths.

“Although we’ve had two laboratory-confirmed deaths in this county, we haven’t measured in Jefferson County in years past the number of lab cases that are confirmed,” Mrs. Esford said. “We only gather statistics in children.”

The last flu death in a Jefferson County child was a four-year-old girl in December 2003.

Flu deaths in children are reportable, not in adults. Because it’s unusual that middle-aged people die from influenza complications, the public health agency is working with hospitals and health care providers to track incidence in the county, according to an agency news release.

High-risk groups tend to be children 6 months to 23 months old, adults over 65, pregnant women in the second or third trimester and persons with an underlying chronic medical condition.

According to a report last week from the Syracuse Post Standard, there recently have been five flu deaths in Onondaga County, all of which involved people in their 40s and 50s. The report said that there also have been two flu deaths in Madison County and one in Oswego County.

In 2012, there were two flu-related deaths in Lewis County. Both were elderly residents.

Many Lewis County residents are now visiting Lewis County General Hospital’s emergency room with flu-like symptoms, but they “don’t necessarily have the flu,” according to hospital spokeswoman Christina L. Flint.

Canton-Potsdam Hospital Infection Prevention Specialist Nancy A. Wood said of the 310 people who have come through Canton-Potsdam Hospital health system to be tested for influenza, 15 people who tested positive for the virus were admitted to the hospital and another 52 received outpatient treatment. The average age of those ill people is 54.

“A lot of people think it’s no big deal, but this strain effects those young, healthy people,” she said.

Influenza A, particularly H1N1, is the flu type that has been circulating, Mrs. Esford said. Influenza is reported widespread throughout the state, according to the state Department of Health.

Locally, the peak of flu season is between February and March, but begins each fall.

According to the state Department of Health’s Bureau of Communicable Disease Control Statewide Influenza Surveillance Report, for the week ending Feb. 15, of the 18,094 laboratory-confirmed cases throughout the state, 40 percent involved 7,158 people between the ages of 18 and 49. There have been 2,782 lab-confirmed flu cases in people ages 50 to 64.

According to the county public health news release, middle-age and young adults “have less natural immunity for H1N1.” Mrs. Esford said people within that age category tend to not be vaccinated, for many reasons, compared with people in other age categories.

Adults die every year from the flu, but since those deaths are not reportable, people know less about the cause of death, Mrs. Esford said. Risk factors, such as obesity, diabetes, lung and heart disease, smoking and any disease that weakens the immune system, such as cancer, can also affect how someone is able to combat influenza.

Throughout the current flu season, Mrs. Esford said there have been hospitalizations of pregnant women with the flu in Jefferson County.

Jefferson County Public Health Service is encouraging everyone ages 6 months and older to get vaccinated. Mrs. Esford said with flu vaccinations available throughout the north country, it is still not too late to be vaccinated. It takes a minimum of two weeks for someone to build immunity after receiving the flu vaccine.

Physician assistant William E. Downey said he has seen many people with the flu who have come to Med Ready Urgent Care, outer Washington Street, that haven’t been vaccinated. Many of those patients have also developed bronchitis, and some have reported vomiting.

“Public health officials have said even if someone who got the vaccine gets the flu, it will be a less severe case compared to if they didn’t get the vaccine.

“Flu vaccine is good, and flu disease is bad, and sometimes deadly,” Mrs. Esford said.

For more information, including a list of immunization clinics, call 386-2325 for St. Lawrence County Public Health, 786-3770 for Jefferson County Public Health, or 376-5453 for Lewis County Public Health. Physician offices, urgent care centers and local pharmacies also offer the vaccine.

prevent the flu
Jefferson County Public Health Service has offered the following tips to help prevent influenza and related complications:
• Get vaccinated
• Practice good respiratory and hygiene etiquette, including,
• Avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
• Stay home from work, school and errands when you are sick.
• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
• Wash your hands often to help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill.
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