According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New York is one of 47 states with widespread influenza activity, but local hospitals and school districts say they are prepared to deal with the virus and have not seen the spike in illnesses that has been widely reported.
While Governor Cuomo declared a flu emergency on Saturday, allowing pharmacists to give flu shots to children, it appears from a survey of local hospitals and schools that so far, Nassau County seems to have been spared the worst of the outbreak, although county officials report 1,041 cases of the flu in November and December, up from just 32 at the same point last year.
A survey of both the Malverne and West Hempstead school districts reveald that attendance in both districts was running just about even with last year.
Although there have been more colds and “flu-like” symptoms this year, Superintendent James Hunderfund told the Herald, attendance has been steady.
The West Hempstead schools also showed steady attendance over past week, officials say.
Facilities such as South Nassau Communities Hospital, Mercy Medical Center and Franklin Hospital have all seen a modest increase in influenza cases and influenza-like illnesses, according to spokespeople for the hospitals.
According to Dr. Joshua Kugler, chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at SNCH and chairman of the Nassau County Regional Emergency Medical Service Committee, influenza-like illness es share some of the same symptoms as the flu, such as headache, fever and runny nose, but they don’t test positive for the influenza virus. “Both of these are much higher this time of year than they have been in the past decade,” Kugler explained. “There are several reasons, and we look back and try to find out why we’re seeing it earlier.”
This year’s vaccine for the influenza virus is very effective, Kugler said, adding that epidemiologists did a good job of predicting the type of flu that would affect the region when they created the vaccine. “It is genetically very appropriate for the flu that we are seeing,” he said. “It’s protecting against two-thirds of the flu or flu-like illnesses.”
Kugler added that it is important that more people get vaccinated, because it makes it less likely that the virus will spread. He said that anyone who is 6 months or older and does not have very specific reasons — like an allergy — to not be vaccinated should be. He advised people to keep good hygiene in mind, and added that those who are sick should stay at home.
A spokesperson for Franklin Hospital said that about 40 patients a day have come in to be treated for flu-like symptoms, and that about five per day are admitted for treatment for the flu.