Flu season has hit Long Island and this year seems to be hitting one group more prevalently than others; young and middle aged adults.
According to Dr. Susan Donelan, Director of Health Care, Epidemiology and Infectious Disease at Stony Brook University Medical Center, “Young and middle aged seem to be the biggest representation of the influenza that is predominating, which differs from the 2009 outbreak where it was 18-year-olds and under that were hit hardest.”
According to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, there have been 38 lab confirmed cases of Swine Flu (H1N1) on Long Island since Oct. 1, with 29 of those being in Suffolk County.
“It’s a very active flu season,” said Donelan. “We are seeing it everyday.”
According to Stony Brook University Medical Center, influenza, commonly called the flu, is contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. Though colds and the flu share some symptoms, they cannot be treated alike. A cold is caused by a different virus and has milder symptoms, while the flu can cause mild to severe illness, and at times lead to death.
"A cold creeps up on you, the flu is much quicker," she Donelan. "It is a more of an abrupt onset than the common cold. The day may start out fine, but by then end of it you are miserable and just want to get into bed."
In Suffolk County, from Oct. 1- Jan. 15, seven cases were reported in people ages 40-49. Another six were in people aged 20-29. Four people were 60-plus and three were between 1-4. There were two under the age of one, and also in the 50-59 and 30-39 age brackets. There were three cases between those aged 5-19.
In Nassau, there have been nine cases of H1N1, six of which were in the 18-49 age bracket. Two of them were from ages 5-17 and one from age 1-4.
"Laboratory diagnosis of influenza includes rapid antigen testing, culture and molecular rt-PCR techniques," Dr. Gary P. Leonardi, Director of Virology and Molecular Pathology at Nassau University Medical Center, said. "Although rapid testing can give results at the point-of-care, its low sensitivity (misses cases of flu) mandates that negative results be tested by more accurate culture and/or molecular methods.
This year's flu vaccine did include H1N1, and Donelan said it's not too late to get it.
“It’s still advisable to get the vaccine,” said Donelan. “I can’t think of anyone who shouldn’t get it except those who cannot such as children under six months.
If you do get the flu, Donelan said you should call your doctor and let them know you are experiencing flu-like symptoms.
“If you are able to eat and drink and have no trouble breathing, keep hydrated and watch your urine production. Some people can ride it out at home, but it’s not a bad idea to call your doctor.”
Medications are available to treat flu and can be prescribed by your doctor.
"The current circulating strain of influenza is sensitive to the antiviral drugs Tamiflu and Relenza, obtainable by prescription, but is resistant to amantadine and rimantadine drugs," Leonardi added.
With reporting from Michael Ganci.