"Influenza disease has been widespread in New York state and rapidly escalating in Niagara County," Public Health Director Daniel Stapleton said late last week. To date, one pediatric death has been reported in New York City. Fortunately, no children have died from influenza in Niagara County.
"Vaccination continues to provide the best protection against influenza, when incorporated with other preventive measures such as hand-washing and social distancing," Stapleton said.
Although a drifted strain of H3N2 has surfaced this year, multiple strains of influenza covered by the vaccine continue to circulate.
Stapleton pointed out, "These data indicate vaccination rates are not where they should be in New York state or Niagara County."
Influenza vaccination can prevent illness from all strains covered in the vaccine and may reduce the severity of drifted H3N2 influenza disease. All individuals 6 months and older are recommended to receive annual influenza vaccinations. Children ages 6 months through 8 years of age who have never received a flu vaccine need to get two doses of vaccine spaced at least four weeks apart.
Most people with the flu continue to have mild to moderate symptoms and recover at home without medical treatment. However, influenza still causes more than 30,000 deaths a year in the U.S., and is especially dangerous to individuals with underlying medical risk factors.
"The importance of incorporating timely influenza vaccination to protect these high-risk groups cannot be understated," Stapleton said.
Those at highest risk of serious illness and complications from influenza are:
Signs of influenza may include:
While the majority of individuals who have influenza recover at home without medical treatment, there are times when it is appropriate to seek medical treatment. Individuals experiencing severe or worsening symptoms should immediately contact their health care providers.
Signs immediate medical treatment is needed for children include:
Signs immediate medical treatment is needed for adults include:
Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
Pain or pressure in the chest or stomach
Severe vomiting that does not stop
Flu-like symptoms that improve, but then return with fever over 101° and worsening cough
Stapleton urged all residents to take the following additional preventive measures:
•Cover coughs and sneezes with a sleeve or disposable tissue. Dispose of tissues in a wastebasket and immediately cleanse the hands.
•Wash hands often and vigorously with soap and water for 15 to 20 seconds, especially after coughing, sneezing or blowing the nose, before and after eating, after using the bathroom, and always before touching or caring for infants, elderly or chronically ill. Use waterless, alcohol-based hand sanitizer when hand-washing facilities are unavailable.
Keep hands away from eyes, nose and mouth. Many respiratory infections are picked up by touching the eyes with fingers contaminated by viruses.
Stay home if sick with flu-like symptoms; keep ill children home from school or day care until fever-free without medications for 24 hours.
Avoid unnecessary contact with individuals who show signs of respiratory illness.
"During this influenza season, it is important to take every action available to you to prevent influenza," Stapleton said. "Get vaccinated and follow preventive measures. Please be mindful that your health choices can have a profound impact on the health of the family you love, as well as those in our community."