ITHACA, NY – The flu season is hitting its stride in New York State, and Tompkins County is feeling the effects.

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In a report released last week by the New York State Department of Health, Tompkins was one of five New York Counties to report more than 10 cases per 100,000 residents.

According Theresa Lyczko, Director of Public Information at the Tompkins County Department of Health, there were 13 cases reported in a roughly three-month span from November to the end of January.

From Feb. 1 through Feb. 11 there have been almost double that — 24.

Lyczko noted that that number only refers to laboratory confirmed cases of influenza. “Not everyone goes to the doctor, not everyone gets tested for the virus. Those numbers are a good indicator of where we are, but it doesn’t mean those are the only cases.”

Lyczko said it’s not surprising that Tompkins is seeing an influx of the virus. Students returning from break from all around creates a perfect opportunity for the virus to spread.

The New York State Department of Health has officially declared the virus “prevalent” across the state, with cases in 44 counties.

The department urges everyone to get a flu shot, saying “It is not too late to get vaccinated and there are ample amounts of the vaccine available. This year’s strain covers the most common circulating strains for the flu.”

Lyczko says that the Tompkins Health Department still has vaccine available. You can make an appointment to get a flu shot by calling 274-6616. You can also find more information on the Tompkins County Health Department’s influenza page.

She also recommended the usual steps to help prevent the spread: wash your hands regularly, cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough, and stay home if you feel flu-like symptoms.

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With the declaration that the flu is now widespread, a regulation now requires all health care workers who are not vaccinated against the influenza virus to wear masks to help prevent spread of the virus.

According to data compiled by the health department, 95 percent of health care workers at Cayuga Medical Center are vaccinated. The state median value is 86 percent.

“So far this season in New York, 817 flu-related hospitalizations have been reported, and no reports of pediatric deaths from flu. Over the last three seasons, there have been 26 pediatric flu deaths in New York and an average of 9,966 flu-related hospitalizations each season,” according to NYS Department of Health announcement.

The Health Department notes that flu season often reaches its peak in February, so the virus seems to be right on schedule.

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Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at msmith@ithacavoice.com, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.