The Good News And Bad News About New York’s Flu Season

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ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) – New data from the state Department of Health indicate the number of confirmed cases of influenza in New York is down by over 1,300 compared to a year ago.

That’s an indication that this year’s vaccine is more effective against the dominant strain, according to Dr. Stephen Cohen, senior vice president and corporate medical director for Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.

“What happened last year was there was a late mutation, so to speak, so that by the time the flu got to the northern hemisphere, and the vaccine came out, there was a mismatch. That’s pretty unusual, but this year it looks like they really hit the nail on the head” he said.

The bad news, Cohen says, is that only one in three adults in upstate New York get the flu vaccine.

He says getting vaccinated against the flu is a social responsibility, because anyone with the virus can spread it to unsuspecting people up to about 6 feet away by talking, sneezing or coughing.

“It’s never too late to get a flu shot.  So here we are now coming up on the end of January, you can still get a flu shot, and within 10 to 14 days, which is how long it takes, you can be protected,” he said.

Cohen adds antiviral drugs are available to those who are ill, and doctors can make a virtual house call through telemedicine to write prescriptions for patients.

He says, generally speaking, the flu season lasts into March, but there are cases right through April.