The 2012-2013 influenza season is well underway in New York, with the numbers of infections and hospitalizations echoing national trends. The week 52 data released by the Department of Health on Jan. 3, 2012, shows that the Empire State has not escaped the early onset of seasonal flu or its medical effects. Since Oct. 1, 1,649 New Yorkers have been hospitalized for the flu or its complications, and one child has died from the illness.
The 2012-2013 influenza season arrived earlier and harder than expected, both nationally and in New York. Nationally, visits to outpatient medical care for influenza-like illnesses (ILI) are 4.2 percent of all visits. In New York, ILI rates averaged 3.8 percent in the week ending Dec. 29. Long Island and the Hudson Valley have the highest ILI rates for the state at this time.
In the final week of 2012, 638 patients were hospitalized for influenza. This was an increase of 46 percent from the prior week. Elderly patients make up 46 percent of all flu-related hospitalizations for the 2012-2013 flu season.
Testing by the Health Department lab and others also parallels the findings nationally. The A)H3 strain of influenza is the overwhelming cause of flu illnesses in the state. The B) strain in circulation has been seen more often in New York, 4 percent of specimens tested, than nationally where it has been found just in just over 2 percent of the tests.
It is not too late to receive a flu shot. This year's vaccine is a good match for the various influenza strains in circulation. It is not possible to get the flu from the vaccine. However, it takes up to two weeks for the immunization to take full effect so it is possible to catch the flu even after receiving the vaccine. A number of other respiratory viruses also circulate at this time of year that have similar symptoms, including RSV, respiratory syncytial virus.