Southern Tier Escapes The Worst Of Flu Season, For Now

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VESTAL, NY (WSKG) – New York Health Commissioner Howard Zucker has declared the flu prevalent across the state. That means healthcare workers who aren’t vaccinated must wear a surgical mask.

(AP Photo/David Goldman)

Most flu cases are downstate in New York City and its suburbs, but upstate counties are bracing for a change.

“We’re fully expecting, as is typical, to see that number of lab-confirmed influenza cases rise precipitously within the next couple of weeks,” said Peter Buzzetti, Chemung County Public Health Director. His comments were echoed throughout the Southern Tier.

“From here on out the activity is going to start increasing,” said Chelsea Reome-Nedlik, a Public Health Representative with the Broome County Health Department. “Especially as people are out shopping and traveling and seeing friends and family for the holidays. That increased interaction with people just allows the flu to spread a little bit more easily.”

So far this year, Reome-Nedlik said Broome County has seen about two dozen flu cases. According to the New York Department of Health, there have been 691 flu-related hospitalizations and the virus is reported in 42 counties.

Health Department officials in counties across New York stress the importance of getting vaccinated. They said some people don’t get the vaccine because they’re relatively healthy or because they’re afraid it will make them sick.

“It can’t make you sick,” said Heidi Bond, Otsego County Public Health Director. “People get an immune response when you get the flu vaccine so you might have a slight fever and feel a little bit run down, but it’s your immune system building up antibodies to the influenza.”

To find a vaccine site near you, visit the CDC website.