Cases are rising in the region and it's not too late to get vaccinated

CANANDAIGUA — Flu is spreading, as the state sees its fourth consecutive week of widespread activity for the nasty virus that pops up every winter.

On Thursday, UR Medicine’s Thompson Health instituted visitor restrictions at both Thompson Hospital and the M.M. Ewing Continuing Care Center due to flu. Each patient or resident is limited to three visitors at a time and no visitors under age 14 are permitted (with possible exceptions at the discretion of the Infection Prevention Department), Thompson announced. Anyone with symptoms of possible illness is asked not to visit until they have been symptom-free for at least 24 hours.

Michelle Vignari, director of Infection Prevention and Disaster Preparedness at UR Medicine's Thompson Health, said flu took off a bit earlier this year compared to the 2015/2016 season.

“This December and January to date we have seen more positive cases and overall patients being tested compared to last season,” Vignari said. She added flu cases have been increasing at a slower pace than other facilities in surrounding counties. “Currently we are averaging about 20 positive flu cases in our lab per week,” she said. This includes inpatient and outpatient specimens.

“We have also seen patients, mainly the elderly population, admitted with the flu and flu complications, averaging about two to three cases admitted a week,” Vignari said.

Wayne County has had 40 confirmed cases of flu reported since Oct. 1, according to Chris Gedney, communicable disease program coordinator at Wayne County Public Health. Flu cases per season vary greatly, she said. Last year was mild and the year before, the 2014/2015 season, was a bad one. That year the vaccine did not cover a strain that raised havoc.

This year’s vaccine for the general population covers four strains.

The latest release from the New York State Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “indicates a good match,” added Vignari.

Public health officials say it’s not too late to get vaccinated.

“Getting an annual flu vaccine is the first and best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu,” Vignari said. She added that flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations.

“The more people who get vaccinated, the more people will be protected from flu, including older people, very young children, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions who are more vulnerable to serious flu complications,” she said.

Statewide, flu increased 13 percent last week compared with the week before. The number of patients hospitalized due to flu was up 7 percent. The data is from the New York State Department of Health, which collects, compiles, and analyzes information on flu activity statewide. A report is updated weekly during flu season, October through the following May.