Oneida County approaches 1,000 confirmed cases of the flu
ONEIDA COUNTY, N.Y. (WKTV) - As of Friday afternoon, the number of confirmed cases of the flu in Oneida County is 994. Oneida County Health Department Spokesperson Ken Fanelli says Oneida County has the highest outbreak in the state, and in the country for that matter. According to the Centers for Disease Control, New York, Connecticut, South Carolina, Arkansas and Alaska are the only five states with what the CDC terms a 'Widespread' outbreak of the flu, the most severe. Fanelli says as a result of this widespread outbreak, school districts are seeing a big increase in absenteeism, and in many cases, it's not just for one of two days. "Anyone who has had the flu, flu-like symptoms, flu-like illness, they should stay out of school or work for at least 24 hours after all of the symptoms have subsided, and from what I'm hearing, most people that are getting this flu are sick for seven to ten days, so you're looking at a fairly long stretch," Fanelli said. Fanelli says that the county is seeing an average of 60 to 70 new cases of influenza reported to the health department each day. "It hasn't peaked yet, I'm sure, and the numbers are such that I'm sure schools are experiencing a lot of absenteeism at the moment, you know children are the biggest spreaders of the flu, frankly because they don't practice good respiratory hygene, they don't cover their coughs and sneezes, they don't wash their hands as frequently or as well as hey should, and these things are important to (stop) the spread of flu." Fanelli said that according to the CDC, this particular strain of influenza is the same strain that circulated the country in 2003-2004. He says it's a particular virulent strain of the flu, but the good news is that the vaccine that is being given is a good match for the strain, which is sickening so many people. "We're urging people, if they haven't gotten the flu shot by now, they should do so and do so as soon as possible," Fanelli said. "I remind the viewing audience that it takes two weeks to develop immunity against the flu after you've gotten the shot, so don't put it off." Health officials say the largest numbers of flu victims at this time are in the 1 to 9 years old age group, with the the second largest group being ages 9 - 14. Fanelli says this is what the Health Department expects, because they spread it faster than any other group. While the flu is being reported in every state, Oneida County has the unfortunate distinction of leading the state in terms of the number of confirmed cases. "Last year, again, we only had 329 reported cases in the entire season and the flu season ran through April of 2012," Fanelli said. "So here we have 940 cases, three times as many, and we're just in the first week in December."