Is it the flu?

Widespread illness sending many to seek medical help


You’re feeling achy, tired, run down, maybe have a cough, runny nose, a fever, a sore throat. Could it be the flu? It very well could be.

The Nassau University Medical Center, in East Meadow, has seen an increase in recent weeks in patients who are suffering from influenza-like illnesses, according to Dr. Steven Walerstein, the NUMC’s medical director. The initial group of patients, Walerstein said, were mostly children, but the hospital has been seeing more adults and elderly patients in the past few days.

To prepare for the flu season, Walerstein said, the hospital made sure that all of its workers were vaccinated, and reminded them of the importance of frequent hand-washing. He described this as the worst flu season he’s seen in the past three years. “The past two years were quiet years,” he said. “It is showing all signs that this next week or so can become a significant flu outbreak, the worst we’ve had in a while.”

Walerstein emphasized that it’s not too late to get a flu vaccination. “It takes two weeks for the vaccination to take effect,” he said. “Historically, the flu … usually peaks in February and March, so if you haven’t been vaccinated, you should be vaccinated now.” Symptoms of influenza include the combination of a fever and either a cough or a sore throat. Anybody who is experiencing these symptoms, Walerstein said, should immediately contact their primary care physician because going to an emergency room may not be the best idea. “When flu epidemics get bad, the worst thing is to bring patients into emergency rooms or hospitals,” he said, “because everyone winds up infecting each other.

“If you’re young and healthy, without significant illnesses like heart disease or lung disease,” he added, “the best advice is to stay home, take Tylenol and fluids and just ride it out.”

Dr. Daniel Frogel, medical director of the walk-in facility Premier Care in Lynbrook, said that since mid-December he has administered 50 to 60 rapid flu tests a day, with positive results in 15 to 25 of those tested.

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