North country flu cases increase in last two weeks


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WATERTOWN — Flu cases in St. Lawrence, Lewis and Oswego counties spiked during the past two weeks and county public health officials say the worst is yet to come.

Since Jan. 1, there have been 175 laboratory-confirmed flu cases in Lewis County, compared to 47 last year for the same period, between Jan. 1 and Feb. 5.

The number of confirmed flu cases has nearly doubled in St. Lawrence County, from 150 to 285 between Oct. 1 and Feb. 5 this season, compared to 150 during the same period last season.

St. Lawrence County saw a drastic increase in diagnosed flu cases in recent weeks, public health official Kindra E. Cousineau said.

“Last week, we had a huge increase in numbers of cases and this week, it’s just as bad,” she said.

And the worst is probably not over, she said. “I don’t think we’ve hit a peak yet.”

Calling it “an above-average season,” Ashley Waite, Lewis County’s public health nurse, said there’s been an increase of reported flu cases during the past two weeks.

But she said it’s still not too late to get a flu vaccination if you haven’t gotten one this season.

In Jefferson County, “it’s not been an out-of-ordinary flu season so far,” county Public Health Planner Faith E. Lustik said.

She said she doesn’t know why Jefferson County has not experienced an increase in flu cases in recent weeks, as nearby counties have.

Compared to what’s been reported elsewhere, the number of flu cases at Samaritan Medical Center hasn’t been alarming, said spokeswoman Krista A. Kittle.

The hospital’s emergency room has seen about 170 flu cases this season. Six patients are currently in Samaritan with the flu, she said.

“We haven’t seen a spike, by any means,” she said.

While it’s been a normal year in Jefferson County, a 39-year-old Watertown woman reportedly died on Feb. 1 after getting the flu. The woman’s family didn’t want to comment, pending the results of her autopsy.

As mandated by the state, county public health agencies receive information only on pediatric deaths caused by the flu. They are unable to keep track of adult flu deaths.

Oswego County also has seen an increase in confirmed laboratory cases during the past two weeks, said Supervising Public Health Nurse Jodie M. Martin.

While she did not have this week’s numbers, Mrs. Martin said the number of cases surpassed last week’s 162.

So far, there have not been any children’s deaths from the flu in the four-county region. Eight pediatric deaths have been reported in the state.

New York state has seen record numbers of flu cases this season.

According to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office, the number of confirmed flu cases rose 35 percent and flu-related hospitalizations increased by 2 percent since last week.

With 15,753 laboratory-confirmed influenza cases reported to the state Department of Health, and 2,349 New Yorkers hospitalized with confirmed influenza, the numbers are again the highest weekly numbers in both categories since reporting began in 2004 and exceed last week’s record highs of 11,683 confirmed cases and 2,221 hospitalizations, according to a press release.

To combat the flu, the state is providing emergency funding to counties in the form of enhanced reimbursements. The state also will help fund expanded efforts to promote and increase access to flu vaccine statewide.


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