Yates County Public Health says flu cases are on the rise in New York; urges people to get a vaccination to protect themselves and others.

As expected, winter weather did show up on time for the holiday season. Along with the winter weather, influenza (flu) has come to our community, as it has to communities throughout the state.

Sara Christensen with Yates County Public Health reports, "flu outbreaks are now being considered "widespread" throughout New York State." Locally, here in Yates County, flu activity is on the rise. Area health care providers and hospitals are reporting increased numbers of patients with flu-like symptoms.

"The early reports of flu cases in New York State further emphasize the importance of people getting a flu vaccination now" Christensen said. "A flu vaccination is a safe and effective way to reduce your risk for flu and also protect the health of your family and friends." It is important to know that if you have not received your influenza vaccination yet this year, it's not too late! You can check with your health care provider's office or area pharmacies on flu vaccine availability. Since flu sometimes peaks in late winter

or early spring, vaccinations this time of year offer important protection. It usually takes about two weeks for full immunity to be reached following vaccination and this will protect you throughout the entire flu season. The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone aged 6 months and older. The vaccine is especially important for children under 2 years of age, adults over age 65, pregnant women, and those who have medical conditions as they are at greater risk for the disease and complications.

Influenza illness is not the same as a cold virus. Usually with a cold you will have a runny nose, mild congestion, and cough lasting a week or so. Influenza is a more serious contagious respiratory illness that can have a sudden onset of fever, headache, chills, and muscle aches, as well as a cough or sore throat.

Influenza comes on quickly, within 24-48 hours of being exposed to the virus. You may be contagious to others a day before you even start feeling symptoms and then 5-7 days after the illness strikes.

Complications of the flu can include bronchitis or pneumonia that can become life-threatening. If you have been exposed to someone with the flu or a person experiencing flu symptoms, consult with your Health Care Provider immediately to determine whether prescription antiviral drugs may be helpful. Treatment with prescription antiviral medications can sometimes lessen the effects of influenza, if the treatment is started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. Antibiotics are not effective against influenza.

Christensen states, "If you have the flu, avoid close contact with others, stay home from work or school, and get plenty of rest." You can reduce your risk of getting the flu by washing your hands regularly, cover your coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue or the bend of your arm, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth that can spread the virus, eat healthy foods, exercise and get enough sleep.

For more information on Influenza, please call Yates County Public Health at 315-536-5160.