Oneida County hospitals take precautions against flu

St. Elizabeth Medical Center

Oneida County has been especially hard hit by an early outbreak of influenza and area hospitals are taking precautions to slow down the further spread of the disease.

According to the Oneida County Health Department, there have been 876 confirmed cases of flu in the last two months. 70 new cases were recorded on Tuesday alone. Onondaga County is also experiencing a spike in flu cases, but not nearly as significant as in Oneida County. Onondaga County reports 210 cases of flu so far.

The flu outbreak in Oneida County is so serious, local hospitals here are taking special precautions. As Director of Infection Prevention at Saint Elizabeth Medical Center Heidi Coluzza made sure signs when up at the entrances warning visitors of the outbreak and asking that people stay home if possible. Visitors under the age of 18 are now prohibited from entering St. Elizabeth. Masks and hand sanitizer stations are prominently displayed everywhere. Staff are encouraged to wear masks and patients with flu like symptoms are isolated.

Coluzza told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon, "to have it start in October into early December and have this many positive cases and this many with flu like symptoms, it's extremely surprising to us."

The Oneida County Health Department is running a public service campaign on local airwaves urging everyone to get the vaccination that was developed earlier this year before the flu began showing up. According to Communications Director Ken Fanelli, "Indications at this point are that the strain of flu that is affecting most individuals is covered by the vaccine that's being administered... so they made a good call."

Fanelli says most experts believe that because the disease showed up so early, the flu should peak at around Christmas time and then begin to decline.