The health system sees triple the number of flu cases compared to this time last year

CANANDAIGUA — Thompson Health has added staff to deal with the flu epidemic. The number of patients testing positive for flu is three times what it was last year at this time, according to the health system serving the Finger Lakes region. Cases reached 261 this Jan. 21, compared to 93 cases on Jan. 21, 2017.

“We are experiencing the same increases in volume that everyone is seeing nationally,” said Michelle Vignari, a registered nurse and Thompson Health director of infection prevention. “We have increased staffing in many areas to safely deal with the surge.”

Through Jan. 21 last year, Thompson had seen 22 hospitalizations due to flu. As of this Jan. 21, hospitalizations reached 38.

“This is a bad year for us,” said Mary Beer, director of Ontario County Public Health. “We are seeing a lot of flu out there.”

How individuals are reacting to the flu varies based on a number of factors. “Everybody’s immune system is different,” Beer said. She urged anyone not vaccinated to get vaccinated. While people getting flu include those vaccinated and those not vaccinated, the flu shot can shorten the duration and severity of flu symptoms, she said.

Beer said Monday there had not been any pediatric deaths this season in Ontario County due to flu. Those are the only deaths that must be reported by law. There have been deaths associated with flu, however, as there are most years, she said. These cases often involve elderly patients who have weakened immune systems and those with health conditions that make them more apt to become severely ill.

On Monday, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer called on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to designate a special "domestic flu surveillance team" for New York state.

“Already, more than 5,000 New Yorkers have become bedridden as a result of this year’s serious flu epidemic,” stated Schumer. “With record-setting highs this season, it’s absolutely critical that New York have the resources it needs to track the flu’s path, gather intelligence and combat this powerful virus.

“The CDC should immediately designate a special domestic flu surveillance team for New York to hone in on the virus and augment the great work of our local hospitals and health departments,” Schumer added.

As of Jan. 18, the weekly rate of New Yorkers hospitalized with influenza was the highest it had ever been since the state Department of Health began reporting in 2004. So far this season, 5,267 people in New York had been hospitalized as a result of flu, compared with 3,533 hospitalizations last season.


5 tips for getting through flu

Flu shots aren’t perfectly effective for every person every year, but they’re our best chance against fighting off and spreading illness. So if you got the flu in spite of getting the vaccine, or you skipped your flu shot and are now under the weather, UR Medicine's Dr. Michael Kamali — director of UR Medicine’s urgent care centers and chair of the URMC Department of Emergency Medicine — shares tips to help quell your symptoms and get well:

• Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of the right fluids, such as water, juice or sports drinks.

• Take pain/fever relievers. Choose ibuprofen or acetaminophen (Tylenol) as needed.

• Get plenty of rest. Avoid spreading the virus by staying home.

• Wash your hands often. Use soap and clean, running water. Air dry or use a clean towel.

• Go to the doctor. If you have trouble breathing, are severely dehydrated, or the illness affects your other health conditions, seek emergency or urgent care.