1st flu outbreak arrives early in Northeast

Jan 4, 2013

The latest round of the flu virus has local emergency rooms and urgent care centers seeing patients in record numbers - Capital Region Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports...

Credit NYS DOH

Last winter’s flu season was a relatively mild one throughout the Northeastern US; this year, Influenza has been categorized as widespread across the region. Health care facilities are reporting a huge influx of patients with flu symptoms -    the New York State Department of Health,  as of December 29th,  counted 15-thousand 69 positive lab tests - confirmed cases of flu across the State, including New York City. That's almost triple the number during all of last year's flu season.  

Health officials in Massachusetts report that by December 28th, 3,736 flu cases were confirmed through laboratory tests statewide, compared with just 126 last year.

Steve Weinman is the Medical Director at First Care Medical Center in Highland - he says the Ulster County facility saw its first case of flu about two and a half weeks ago - and now they're seeing about 10 new cases every day.  

Saratoga Hospital and its network of clinics reported 670 positive flu tests in December with 550 of them occurring the final two weeks.

Last December, CVPH Medical Center in Plattsburgh had only two patients who tested positive for flu. This season,it reported 92 cases in December.   CVPH spokesman Mike Hildebrand explains that, besides flu, there's been an uptick in cases involving stomach bugs and upper respiratory problems.

Although vaccinations can begin in early fall or as soon as vaccine becomes commercially available, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting a flu shot now: IF you can find a facility that has vaccine in stock .

Peak flu time is January and February, though it can linger through May. Preventive measures include frequent handwashing and avoiding crowds, especially steering clear of people who are doing a lot of coughing and sneezing. Mike Hildebrand advises if you're ill, stay home from work or school.

Flu symptoms may include fever, coughs and body aches that can last for a week or more. Officials point out that Laboratory-confirmed cases are a small slice of the actual number of flu cases because most victims don't check in at a medical facility and aren't tested.