Data show this flu season is bad for New York state and Upstate New York

leva doyle
Monday, February 10, 2020


Data show this flu season is bad for
New York state and Upstate New York


Syracuse, N.Y.    There are more confirmed cases of flu in New York state so far this flu season than there were at this same time during the last flu season, according to a review of health tracking data by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. As of February 1, the New York State Department of Health confirmed 89,597 cases of flu, 54,554 more cases than at this time last year. This flu season has been especially difficult for children. More than 50 percent of all confirmed cases have been among children ages 17 and younger.


Upstate New York is also being hit hard by flu. During the week of February 1, there were 4,844 confirmed flu cases, with Utica/Rome/North Country experiencing the most cases this week:


Utica/Rome/North Country: 1,374 flu cases

Western New York: 1,033 flu cases

Finger Lakes: 913 flu cases

Central New York: 779 flu cases

Central New York’s Southern Tier: 745 flu cases


“We’ve confirmed an increase in flu activity week-over-week in our region, so we may not yet have reached the peak of this flu season,” said Richard Lockwood, M.D, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield vice president and chief medical officer. “I can’t stress enough that it’s not too late to get the flu vaccine.” Studies support the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing flu and in reducing the severity of illness in vaccinated people who get sick. With few exceptions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone ages six months old and older gets vaccinated.


Only about one in three upstate New York adults gets the flu vaccine. Lockwood believes there is a social responsibility to getting vaccinated. “Someone carrying the flu virus can spread it to unsuspecting people up to about 6 feet away, mainly by expelling microscopic droplets into the air when talking, coughing, or sneezing.”


For young children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems, the flu virus can be deadly. 


Last year’s flu, and complications from flu, killed 34,200 people in the United States, according to the CDC.


The best way to prevent the flu is by getting the flu vaccine, but there are other methods you can use to further protect yourself. Good health habits, such as covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze and frequently washing your hands with warm, soapy water, can also help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like the flu. In addition, ensuring that commonly used surfaces, such as door handles, countertops and your TV remote, are wiped down with disinfectant wipes is a great way of killing flu germs.


People who are very sick with flu, or people who are at high risk of serious complications when they develop flu symptoms, should see their doctor early in their illness for possible treatment with a flu antiviral drug. If that’s not possible, a telemedicine visit with the patient’s own doctor or with a telemedicine provider is an option. 


“Nobody feels like leaving the house when they’re sick with flu,” said Lockwood. “Telemedicine allows a patient to see a qualified physician from the comfort of their home by using a telephone, smartphone, computer or tablet. Telemedicine providers can write prescriptions and send them to the patient’s preferred pharmacy.”


Most health insurers have web links to approved in-network telemedicine providers. Excellus BlueCross BlueShield’s website links to