WATERTOWN — Along with low temperatures and snowfall, it’s the time of year again for cold and flu season, with even more confirmed cases of the flu in the county than last year.
Since this current flu season began on Oct. 1, Jefferson County has reported 270 lab-confirmed cases, well above the 93 cases from this time last season, according to Faith E. Lustik, public health planner for the county.
Flu seasons usually begin each October and end the following May.
The flu season also began later last year than it did this year, and a strain of influenza B is far more prevalent this time around than influenza A, which is unusual, according to Ms. Lustik.
Though many different scientists have theories as to why this may be, there is nothing concrete at this time. The last time influenza B was more prevalent than A was back in the 1992-1993 flu season, Ms. Lustik said.
The two common types of influenza A viruses are H1 and H3, and the Wadsworth Center, the New York State Department of Health’s public health laboratory, identifies the lineage of influenza B specimens as Yamagata or Victoria.
Last year there were only 10 cases of influenza B. Just last week, there were 50 lab-confirmed flu cases, 42 of which were influenza B, in Jefferson County. Having primarily influenza B cases is unusual for this time of year, with influenza B not usually seen until late winter or early spring, according to Ms. Lustik, which makes it even more important to get vaccinated against both influenza A and B.
According to the NYS department of health, the best way to prevent against the flu is to get a flu vaccine, so everyone six months or older should get the vaccine every year.
Usually, those who go to be vaccinated receive quadrivalent vaccines that help prevent against two strains of influenza A and two strains of B. After receiving a flu shot, a person has six to eight months of immunity, so it is not recommended to get more than one shot each season.
Contrary to what some may believe, the flu vaccine does not give a person the flu. What it does is stimulate the body to produce antibodies, which protect from flu viruses. Once a person receives a flu vaccine, it takes about two weeks for it to be fully effective.
The flu usually spreads from person to person when someone with the flu coughs or sneezes, though sometimes people get the flu after touching an object or surface with flu virus on it and then touching their eyes, nose, or mouth. Flu symptoms may include fever or chills, cough, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, muscle/body aches, headache, and more.
Besides receiving a flu shot, other ways to prevent against the flu, as with most sicknesses, are staying home if sick and washing hands, and if someone does have the flu or someone else in the household does, a good course of action is to get on antivirals, according to Ms. Lustik, which can prevent or lessen the severity of the flu.