Influenza prevalent in New York

Influenza is prevalent in New York as declared by the state Health Department recently.

For those who haven’t received the flu shot yet: It’s not too late.

“Now that the flu is officially prevalent in New York, we need to step up our defenses against this potentially life-threatening illness,” said Dr. Howard Zucker, state health commissioner. “Getting a flu vaccine is still the best way to stay healthy during flu season.”

As long as the flu is spreading and causing illness, the Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services says it’s not too late to get vaccinated – even if it’s January or later. If people have already been sick with the flu this season, county health officials say it’s still a good idea to get vaccinated. The flu virus can vary from mild to severe, which can lead to hospitalizations and sometimes death.

The flu vaccine can cause mild side effects that can be mistaken for the flu, according to the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. People who get vaccinated could experience achiness. County officials say vaccines are available at the local health department, doctors offices and pharmacies.

Emelia Lindquist Harley, nursing director for UPMC Chautauqua WCA, told The Post-Journal last month that people of all ages should receive the flu vaccine. Young children, the elderly, those with chronic medical conditions and pregnant women are among those who should get a yearly flu shot.

“Influenza is a respiratory disease that can be very lethal,” she said. “It’s upper respiratory and it’s just like having a nasty cold. If you’re healthy and carrying it, you can share germs with someone with a compromised immune status.”

Most health insurance plans cover flu vaccines. Those 18 years of age and older may be able to get their flu vaccine at a local pharmacy.

This year’s flu shot covers the most common circulating strains of the flu. The state Health Department says the nasal spray isn’t recommended this year.

With the flu confirmed widespread, the state Health Department says cases have been confirmed in 39 counties and all boroughs of New York City. So far, 658 flu-related hospitalizations have been reported and there have been no reports of pediatric deaths from the flu. Over the last three seasons, there have been 17 pediatric flu deaths in total in New York and an average of 9,800 flu-related hospitalizations each season.

Health officials say to call the doctor’s office, a pharmacist or a health care professional for more information about the influenza or the flu vaccine. People can also visit, or call the Chautauqua County’s Public Health Division at 1-866-604-6789 for more information.