01/16/13 12:05pm
01/16/2013 12:05 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Dr. Jennifer Rich of Peconic Pediatrics examines 15-month-old Ava Curry of Riverhead before administering a second dose of the flu vaccine Jan. 11. Toddlers get the vaccine in two doses six weeks apart.

Local hospitals and doctors are seeing a jump in flu cases as reports from across the North Fork and Suffolk County show this year’s influenza season started earlier and is hitting harder than last year’s, medical professionals said.

According to the latest Centers for Disease Control data, 49 of the nation’s 54 jurisdictions are reporting regional or widespread flu activity. Roughly 28,000 cases of various flu strains have been reported since the end of September.

This year’s flu season peaked unusually early, in late December. It normally reaches its highest numbers in January and February.

Dr. Michael Catapano of the Stat Health clinic in Cutchogue, said he sees no drop in local flu cases since the peak.

“We’re seeing a lot more flu than we’ve seen in past few years I can remember,” he said.

Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead has seen more cases — in both positive diagnoses and in pure volume of flu-like symptoms — than last year, hospital officials said. The medical center could not provide exact statistics on this year’s number of cases. An official at Eastern Long Island Hospital also reported higher than usual numbers this year.

Though this year’s predominant strain doesn’t appear to be any more deadly than those of previous years, Dr. Catapano said the flu packs a punch.

“You have to remember the flu can kill you,” he said. “30,000 people die of the flu every year. It’s not a cold; it’s a very serious illness.”

People with flu should stay at home and rest, drink lots of fluids to prevent dehydration and control the fever, medical professionals said.

The best defense against the flu is a flu shot, Dr. Catapano said, adding that his clinic ran out of flu serum in the fall. “It’s not too late to get one but it’s tough to find one,” Dr. Catapano said. “They’re very cheap and it’s better than getting sick.”

Having contracted the flu twice as a younger man, Dr. Catapano said he knows full well the value of the flu shot.

“I finally learned,” he said.

psquire@timesreview.com

01/12/13 2:23pm
01/12/2013 2:23 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Dr. Jennifer Rich of Peconic Pediatrics examines 15-month-old Ava Curry of Riverhead before administering a second dose of the flu vaccine Friday morning. Toddlers get the vaccine in two doses six weeks apart.

An executive order issued by governor Andrew Cuomo now permits pharmacists to administer flu shots to patients between six months and 18 years of age, according to a press release issued today. Governor Cuomo issued the executive order after declaring a public health emergency for all of New York state due to an increasingly severe flu season.

“We are experiencing the worst flu season since at least 2009, and influenza activity in New York State is widespread, with cases reported in all 57 counties and all five boroughs of New York City,” Governor Cuomo said in a press release. “Therefore, I have directed my Administration, the State Health Department and others to marshal all needed resources to address this public health emergency and remove all barriers to ensure that all New Yorkers — children and adults alike — have access to critically needed flu vaccines.”

There have been more than 19,000 cases of influenza reported in New York so far this season, thousands more than were reported during last year’s entire season.

Two children in New York state and 18 children nationwide have died as a result of influenza this season.

Hospitalizations due to the laboratory-confirmed influenza have already doubled that of last season’s numbers.

The governor is strongly urging all New York residents to receive or schedule a flu shot immediately as cases rise statewide.

New Yorkers can find a local vaccine provider by visiting http://flushot.healthmap.org and entering their zip code or by calling 1-800-522-5006.

gvolpe@timesreview.com