B y Jaime Thomas
As the height of winter approaches so does the height of flu season.
Though officials say the current number of cases is normal for this time of year, it is still pervasive.
“Right now it’s considered widespread throughout the state,” said Patty Hunt, director of public health and patient services for Washington County.
She said New York state has seen an increase in patients with the flu during the last few weeks and blames this on people being too busy for vaccinations or visiting doctors during the holidays.
“We monitor,” Hunt said. “We get reports of the flu, so we know what’s going on in communities.”
She said one of the main problems with the illness is that people don’t always immediately realize they are sick.
“The difficult thing with the flu is people can be contagious up to a day before they show symptoms,” she said. Because of that, she recommends a number of preventative measures to stop the sickness before it spreads.
“The number one thing they can do is get the flu vaccine; that is best,” Hunt said. Though in other years there have been shortages of the vaccination, Hunt said there seems to be a good supply at this point. She said the H1N1 virus is again in circulation, so the vaccine targets that. The flu vaccine can be administered at most doctor’s offices and some local pharmacies can give the flu shot without the need to even schedule an appointment.
And nationwide, she said trends show younger people are getting hit the hardest this season, so she especially promotes the flu vaccination for those in contact with youth.
“It’s the best way to protect children under six months. Having people around them protected is the best way to protect the very young,” she said.
Anyone who is currently not sick can get a vaccination, which takes two weeks to become completely effective.
“It’s not too late at all. Any protection is better than no protection,” Hunt said. She had recommendations for those who don’t get the vaccine as well to protect against the flu.
“In lieu of that they can do frequent hand washing, cover coughs with an elbow. If they’re sick they shouldn’t be going to work or school,” she said.
Hunt said most people get vaccinated at their local pharmacies or doctors, but those who have no alternative are welcome to visit Washington County Public Health or call the office at 746-2400 or 800-624-4221.