Flu outbreak hits Central New York

There have been more than 670 cases of the flu reported across two Central New York counties so far this year, both of which had zero cases at this time last year.

In Onondaga County, there have been 196 confirmed cases of the flu so far. Health Commissioner Dr. Cynthia Morrow says the number of officially confirmed cases is only a small percentage of the total number of flu cases across the county.

"We all know that most of us who get influenza - we often don't see the doctor. If we do, the doctor may not test us. So we know if it's a confirmed case - it's just the tip of the iceberg," said Morrow.

Local pediatricians have been seeing flu cases ramp up over the past few weeks. Dr. Margaret Hellems-Stanley thinks a lot of people got a false sense security after last year's light flu season and have delayed getting a shot this year.

"It's just last year was so light that people got nonchalant about vaccines - Oh I don't need one and no-one got it last year," said Hellems-Stanley

Dr. Morrow says this year's flu is spreading quickly and people need to get a flu shot to protect themselves and others.

"Over the last couple weeks we've been doubling our numbers every week and that really does speak to how contagious influenza can be if people don't protect themselves, stay at home when they are sick - if people aren't doing the right things," said Morrow.

In Oneida County, there have been 476 lab confirmed cases so far this year, which is already more than they saw last year. There were 329 confirmed cases for the entire 2011-2012 flu season that ended in April.

Ken Fanelli, Public Information Officer for the Oneida Health Department, speculates that many people may have avoided the flu shot this year and last year because of the mild winter. Fanelli says that the lack of flu shots could be contributing to the number of flu cases so early this year.

Health officials tell CNY Central that the largest concentration of flu cases is in children ages 1 to 9-years-old. Fanelli says children tend to spread flu faster because of poor respiratory hygiene and close proximity.

It can take two weeks for the flu shot to take full effect. Dr. Morrow says that even if people have already had the flu this season, they should still get a flu shot. There are three different strains of influenza going around Central New York right now.

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for more information about flu shots in Oneida County. Click here for more information about flu shots in Onondaga County.