Flu season is heating up

February 21, 2012 2:35:27 PM PST
February is the month that usually sees a peak in cases of the flu. We've had a mild season until now, but the piper has to be paid.

The past two weeks has come along with more flu cases than before during this winter. There are always flu viruses in the air at this time of year. The mild weather may be helping prevent infections, but things may get worse before they get better.

At the Chelsea-Clinton community health center, I ran into Luis Oliver, who came in for a check-up and the flu shot.

"I'm over 50 and I try to take care of my body and listen to my doctor's advice," he said.

Did he notice that anyone had the flu this winter?

"Not very many. It was a good winter, and that's probably why not many people had it," he said.

Probably true. This good winter had more people on the street than huddled up inside, where flu could spread.

But the good times are over. There is now an uptick in flu cases.

"It's that same low level of activity, but it's just shifting to a moderate level of activity," Dr. Gary Munk monitors flu in the tri-state.

In New York State in the last two weeks, flu cases doubled. It's the same in New Jersey, where they measure the two flu types, A and B.

Through the whole season, the vaccine protects against two strains of the A flu virus, but only one of the B strains. There is another B strain circulating that's not in the vaccine. Dr. Munk says most adults are protected from both, however, because of older vaccines that contained the second B virus.

Type B flu is predominant among children so labs like this are keeping an eye on pediatric populations.

Babies, especially 6 months or younger, can't get a flu shot and may not be protected against either B strain of virus.

"They're too young to get the flu shot, so they must be surrounded by parents, older sibs, grandparent and friends who've gotten the flu shot to help protect them," Dr. Matthew Weismann of the Chelsea-Clinton Community Health Center said.

For everyone else, get a flu shot.

"They can get the shot and they should get the shot and we have plenty of flu vaccine to give them," Weissman said.

The city health department says they also have plenty of vaccine to give out at public health centers. The flu is a very serious illness that can make you very sick. It's not just like a bad cold. Because flu can persist to Memorial Day, get a flu shot.

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