Growing In Strength, Numbers

Nationwide, the flu has been running rampant, and Chautauqua County is no exception.

Flu season in the U.S. has come a bit early this year, and unfortunately it has come harder than usual, as well.

According to the Center for Disease Control, this is because, along with the flu virus, there are a few viruses going around which have symptoms similar to the flu. The CDC says that there is a sickness affecting children that mimics the flu, as well as a norovirus which has symptoms similar to stomach flu.

Additionally, the flu virus seems to be more devastating this year in contrast to what the CDC considered an unusually mild flu season last year.

For this reason, the Chautauqua County Health Department is encouraging residents to get themselves and their loved ones vaccinated against this year’s strain.

According to Christine Schuyler, commissioner of human services at the health department, the risk of influenza will continue to increase in the county.

Though the number of outpatient visits for influenza is declining after a sharp spike, the CDC says that the recent increase in visits may be attributed in part to a reduced number of routine health care visits during the end of year holidays, which has been observed in previous seasons.

And though some residents have fears about secondary effects of flu shots, Schuyler says vaccinations are recommend for everyone six months of age or older, and anyone who has not been vaccinated should do so now.

According to the CDC, though, the vaccination isn’t foolproof, and even those who were vaccinated can still get sick. Vaccinations are based on educated guesses of what flu viruses will be the strongest each year, so occasionally a rare strain of influenza can still infect people.

The CDC says that vaccinations are still the best way to prevent infection, however, good health and hygiene practices should still be observed, such as regularly washing hands, covering mouths when sneezing and not sharing food utensils or drinking glasses.

To remain up-to-date on influenza risks and trends, the CDC has made Fluview available, which tracks the virus’s progress week by week. Fluview can be accessed at www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly.