New York’s flu season is off to its worst start in a decade, and authorities are urging people to get inoculated against the rapidly spreading virus.


Yates County has had 24 confirmed cases of flu reported so far this season. Local provider offices, hospitals and schools are all reporting increased levels of influenza-like illness.


So far, there have been an estimated 6.4 million flu illnesses across the country, 55,000 hospitalizations and 2,900 deaths from flu, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.


During winter and spring, illnesses such as the common cold, flu, and GI illness (nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea) are most prevalent. Germs that usually cause mild symptoms in a healthy person can cause serious illness in infants and older adults. Take steps to protect those around you who may be at increased risk of serious illness.


Most patients are infected with a strain called B/Victoria that usually doesn’t appear until the end of flu season. The virus tends to strike children and young adults more often, but anyone can be affected, according to the CDC.


Yates County Public Health offers some tips for keeping your family healthy this flu season:


• Get a flu shot. Everyone 6 months old and over should have a flu shot every year. Flu season can last into the summer months, so it is never too late.


• Wash your hands often with soap and water and help young children to do the same.


• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.


• Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.


• Avoid close contact with sick people.


• While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from spreading germs.


• Those sick with flu-like illness should stay home from work or school for at least 24 hours after fever is gone.


• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw out the tissue when you are done.


Flu season is just getting started. Make sure your family is protected. If you do get sick, seek medical attention for severe illness, and to find out if you need antiviral medication. For more information about cold and flu season please contact Yates County Public Health at 315-536-5160 or visit www.yatescountypublichealth.org.