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Worst of nasty flu season over as illness reports decrease

Pharmacist Gregory Lachhman prepares to administer flu shots

Pharmacist Gregory Lachhman prepares to administer flu shots during a free flu shot drive at Molloy College in Rockville Centre on Feb. 15, 2018. Credit: Johnny Milano

The worst of the brutal flu season is finally over, New York health authorities and federal health officials said Friday.

There was a 25 percent decline in laboratory-confirmed flu cases in New York last week and a 21 percent decrease in hospitalizations, the second consecutive week of sharp declines.

Despite the reassuring signs that influenza is waning, thousands of people are still coming down with the wintertime illness. Flu trackers at the New York State Department of Health counted 13,703 new flu cases last week and 1,702 influenza hospitalizations.

“The breadth of this year’s flu epidemic has reminded all of us that we must remain vigilant in protecting ourselves and our loved ones,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement.

The state’s comprehensive efforts to get people vaccinated against the flu statewide, he added, have helped decrease the number of cases. But vaccination is still important to stop influenza’s continued spread, Cuomo said.

Although the state’s statistics do not include the vast population of people who self-treated the illness, those who’ve seen a physician and have been tested for the flu now number in the tens of thousands.

Over the past 12 weeks, influenza has been geographically widespread across the state. As of last Saturday, there were 101,312 laboratory confirmed cases of influenza and 18,282 people hospitalized in New York since the flu season began in October.

Nevertheless, the overall trajectory of influenza statewide is on a downward slope, mirroring the same trends that health officials have seen nationally.

Federal health officials said Friday that the flu season apparently peaked in early February and has been falling since.

The number of people going to the doctor with symptoms of the flu has continued to decline nationwide. Deaths from the flu or pneumonia are going down too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 32 states reported heavy patient flu traffic last week, down from 43 a month ago.

This flu season started early and the intensity level was among the highest seen in a decade. The flu vaccine didn’t work very well this season and health officials are still trying to figure out why.

With AP

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