This year’s flu season has hit a record high on Long Island, as doctors have reported seeing a spike in the number of patients being diagnosed with influenza.
Victor Politi, the President and CEO of the Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, explained that an increasing number of patients have been seeking medical attention for upper respiratory virus, sinus infection, fevers and chills, only to be diagnosed with the flu.
“We are concerned about [this] increase,” Politi said, adding that those who wait too long to seek treatment, he added, risk developing more severe maladies such secondary bacterial infections and pneumonia.
In New York, the number of laboratory-confirmed influenza cases rose by 37 percent between the last week of December and the first week of January, according to the state department of health. In the same duration, the number of influenza related hospitalizations rose by 40 percent.
On a national level, during the first week of January there were 22.7 influenza-related hospitalizations for every 100,000 people, according to the Center for Disease Control. Two weeks prior, there were 8.7 hospitalizations for every 100,000 people.
The CDC also reported that influenza was widespread throughout 49 states during the first week of January, as compared to 36 states two weeks prior.
Influenza is being seen most often in patients over 65 and under 5, Politi said. He recommended, however, that all residents receive a vaccine to protect against the virus or reduce its affects, if contracted.
Each year, the CDC studies the influenza virus as it travels across southern Pacific countries, which see flu season between June and October. By the time the virus spreads to California, the most dominant strain is indentified and the most effective vaccine is created.
This year, 80 percent of flu cases involve the H3N2 strain, according to the NUMC. H and N are the initials for the two proteins in the virus, which are hemagglutinin and neuraminidase. Hemagglutinin binds to the cells of the respiratory tract and neuraminidase allows the pathogens to spread to healthy cells.
“These viruses are very amazing organisms,” Politi said, explaining that influenza pathogens adapt to vaccines, which renders then less effective. The current flu vaccine is only 32 percent effective.
However, Politi added, “We do see it very, very much worth it.” Aside from patients who opt out of the vaccine due to religious reasons or those are allergic to the protein used in it, “A lot of people are not getting it because they’re just too busy,” Politi said. “But they really ought to make the time.”
He recommended that residents receive their shot at NUMC by scheduling an appointment at 516 486 6862. Walks-ins are also welcome.