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Spring flu gripping New York

The spring flu has taken New York by storm. As Fox News reported on April 21, a second wave of influenza is causing illnesses in the state and in other Northeastern states. It is not an uncommon occurrence but New Yorkers have not seen it for several years.

Graphs from the NYS Dept of Health showing the spring flu spike in New York
NYS Dept of Health

The spring flu, a second peak of influenza activity in early spring, is usually caused by an influenza B strain of virus. The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control, for the week ending April 12, shows that 55 percent of the specimens that tested positive for influenza were one of two influenza B viruses. The good news is that both of the strains in circulation were included in the 2013-2014 Northern Hemisphere quadrivalent influenza vaccine. Those who received that vaccine should be immune to the viruses.

The latest influenza peak was brought home April 16 when Rochester, NY, mayor Lovely Warren was hospitalized for flu-like symptoms and dehydration. The Democrat & Chronicle reported that the mayor was taken to Strong Memorial Hospital by ambulance and remained there until April 18.

New York State reported widespread influenza activity in the week ending April 12. This represents a continuous stretch of 18 weeks at that level. The level of positive influenza laboratory results for the 2013-2014 flu season has greatly exceeded those of the last three seasons since March 8. Influenza B strains have been the majority strain in tests since March 15.

Along with the increase in influenza cases, New York is seeing a large increase in the number of patients hospitalized with confirmed influenza. The week of April 5 saw nearly 700 patients admitted. Since numbers bottomed out about March 1, admissions have climbed and over one third of all flu hospitalizations for the season have been recorded in the last six weeks.

Should you get vaccinated for influenza if you have not already done so? The Centers for Disease Control say:

CDC recommends that people get vaccinated against flu as long as flu viruses are circulating. Influenza seasons are unpredictable. They can begin as early as October and substantial activity can occur as late as May. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that provide protection against the flu.

CDC testing this flu season shows that the flu shot for this year is a good match for the viruses in circulation. Only the quadrivalent influenza vaccine covers both of the B influenza strains in wide circulation. It is available as an injection, or for many healthy adults, as a nasal spray. The trivalent vaccine includes one of the B strains. It is available in many formulations, including one that is egg free for those with allergies.

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