New York City

Health Department: Flu is increasing in NYC

Kids more likely to get hit

January 21, 2015 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The New York City Health Department says flu is making the rounds in the city. Kids are hit the hardest. AP photo

Roughly 450 flu-sufferers a day are visiting NYC emergency rooms, according to the New York City Department of Health (DOH). The latest figures track cases from Sept. 30, 2014 to Jan. 19, 2015.

While the number of ER visits bounces up and down from day to day, the numbers have tripled on average since September, when fewer than 150 patients a day reported to the ER with flu-like symptoms.

Flu-related ER visits by children under the age of four were the most common, followed by those ages 5 to 17. Just under a quarter of those visiting the ER were admitted to a hospital.

Dr. Josef Schenker, medical director of the Emergency Department at New York Methodist Hospital in Park Slope, said the top diagnosis for the past month was upper respiratory infection, with the major symptoms being fever and cough.

“These suggest (but are not definite indication of) flu,” he said via email. “The numbers are about what would be expected for this time of year.”

Fewer than half of Americans get a flu shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In New York City, school children were required to get the shots for the first time this year. But while the kids may get their inoculations, many parents skip them.

In a straw poll at the Brooklyn Eagle, only one out of nine respondents got their flu shot this year. “We ‘kept meaning to’ but didn’t,” one staffer said.

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Vaccine Not Very Effective This Year

The CDC reports that overall vaccine effectiveness is just 23 percent this year. This is because most circulating influenza viruses are a different strain from the virus component used in this year’s vaccine. Roughly half of flu sufferers got a flu shot this year.

Still, experts say it’s not too late to derive at least some benefit from the shot.

Demand at local pharmacies has tapered off. A pharmacist at the Rite Aid on Clinton Street in Brooklyn Heights said they gave quite a few shots earlier in the season.

“We’ve done over a thousand, but it’s died down now,” she told the Eagle.

The CVS pharmacy on Henry Street in Brooklyn Heights dispensed more than 1,400 flu shots this season, a pharmacist said. “We were busiest in November, but it slowed down at the end of December,” he said.

CDC, along with the New York City health Department, is recommending that patients who come down with the flu be given antiviral medications, such as Tamiflu, Relenza or Rapivab, as soon as possible.

For the average flu sufferer, Dr. Schenker recommends “supportive care measures,” such as lots of fluid, Tylenol or Motrin. Patients need to follow up with their primary care doctor if not better after about a week. Those with underlying medical conditions need more medical attention.

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