St. Lawrence County seniors warned about high flu rate in NYS
Friday, January 17, 2020 - 1:32 pm

With the dramatic increase in the number of reported flu cases across the state in recent weeks, the New York State Office for the Aging reminds older residents, including those in St. Lawrence County, about the importance of getting their flu vaccination soon.

It’s not too late, they say, because flu season can extend into May.

“The best way to protect against the flu is to get an annual flu shot,” said Acting Director Greg Olsen. “Our immune systems are more easily compromised as we age, and older adults, especially those with chronic health conditions, have an increased risk of developing serious complications from the flu. Getting the flu vaccine helps prevent the spread of the virus and offers vital protection for older adults and their caregivers.”

Flu activity has been high this season and continues to increase. According to the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), by the second week in January, 1,964 New Yorkers had been hospitalized with lab-confirmed influenza, up 34% from the previous week. To date, there have been 5,694 flu-related hospitalizations. In addition, 10,085 laboratory-confirmed flu cases were reported to the State Department of Health last week, a 9% increase in cases from the week prior. There have been 32,848 lab-confirmed cases of the flu reported so far this season.

Influenza symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea. People infected with the flu may also have respiratory symptoms without a fever. The flu can cause mild to severe illness. Adults aged 65 years and older, people with certain chronic medical conditions, young children, and pregnant women are among those who are at highest risk.

Older adults often bear the greatest burden of severe flu consequences. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that in recent years between about 70% and 85% of seasonal flu-related deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older, and between 50% and 70% of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations have occurred among older adults.

According to the CDC, adults over the age of 65 should take the following precautions:

• Get your annual flu shot as soon as possible. As long as flu viruses are circulating, vaccination should continue throughout flu season, even in January or later.

• Practice good health habits, including covering coughs, washing hands often, and avoiding people who are sick.

• Seek medical advice quickly if you develop flu symptoms to see whether you might need medical evaluation or treatment with antiviral drugs. It's very important that antiviral drugs be used early to treat flu in people who are very sick with flu (for example, people who are in the hospital).

• Get pneumococcal vaccines. People who 65 years and older should also be up to date with pneumococcal vaccination to protect against pneumococcal disease, such as pneumonia, meningitis, and bloodstream infections. Talk to your doctor to find out which pneumococcal vaccines are recommended for you.