Flu season in full swing in region

Bob Recotta

After a quiet start, the flu season is becoming more active across the region.

Gail Wechsler, public health coordinator for Steuben County, said the first case of flu this winter in the county surfaced last week.

“All of a sudden, it's starting to progress within the past week,” Wechsler said. “It's gone from being sporadic to almost regionalized. In the western region, at least three counties, Chemung, Erie and Monroe, have patients with positive flu tests.”

Melissa Klossner, Chemung County Health Department's clinical coordinator for public heath, said the Chemung County Nursing Facility instituted a visitor restriction policy last week to protect its residents from the flu virus.

The restriction was lifted at 1:30 p.m. Friday.

“Every year when the flu reaches a certain level, we stop visitors,” Klossner said. “The elderly are at higher risk. This is for everyone's protection.”

The facility was allowing only visitors to critically ill patients. Those visitors were required to wear surgical masks.

Locally, the flu season typically runs from January through March, but it can begin as early as October and go through late April.

Klossner said the flu season typically peaks in our area in mid-February.

According to Klossner, flu symptoms include fever, aches and pains and congestion. A cough and gastro-intestinal upset can also accompany the flu virus.

Wechsler said many illnesses can have similar symptoms, but the flu is generally worse.

“When you have the flu, you know you've had it,” Wechsler said. “You are tired, worn out, you have no appetite. If have the symptoms, but you are still functioning and going on with your daily business, you don't have the flu.”

Both Klossner and Wechsler said there are simple ways to protect against the flu virus.

“Some things people can do are careful hand washing, making sure they stay home when they are sick, making sure to keep children home when they are sick, avoiding crowds to a degree, encouraging those around them to stay home when sick, eating well and keeping hydrated,” Wechsler said.

Flu shots are also widely available in Chemung and Steuben counties.

“This year, there's been plenty of vaccine,” Wechsler said. “People may be finding doctors offices are running out. Last year all of a sudden doctors had extra vaccine, so they ordered less for this year.”

Wechsler said anyone who can't find vaccines through their doctor's office can call the county health department and schedule an appointment.