BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - It looks like the battle against the flu bug is getting underway in Erie County this year.
It's mid-December, we've had a couple of weeks of seriously wintry weather, but when does the flu season start? Well, late Thursday afternoon, we had our first confirmed case in Erie County. Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Anthony Billittier knew it was coming before the lab results came out.
"We start to see some people in the emergency departments with coughs, pneumonias, things like that, so it probably won't be long before we have a positive influenza test," said Dr. Billittier.
Many other respiratory illnesses have symptoms similar to flu, and those flu-like illnesses are carefully tracked. On maps tracking diseases, the green color is the least severe, and through the first week of December, there was very little activity. But it's coming, and you know what to do: get vaccinated.
Dr. Billittier said, "The problem is people wait until the crisis is upon us and then try to react and that's too late to get a flu shot. Once you have the flu, a flu shot isn't going to help you."
But the vaccine will protect you against getting influenza, and everyone over age six months should get it, even if you were vaccinated against the H1N1 flu last year.
"In the flu shot, there's three different strains that are covered, and one of them actually is H1N1, but even if you had your H1N1 shot last year, good for you but you should still get a flu shot this year because you can boost your H1N1 protection and also get protection against the other two strains that are in the shot," said Dr. Billittier.
And when the flu season hits, the same advice you've heard before is still good.
Dr. Billittier stated, "Wash your hands, cover your cough or your sneeze, and if you're sick, stay away from other people, so you don't give them what you have."
So what does it mean that we've had a confirmed case here in western New York? Not everyone with a flu-like illness is tested, so there probably have been others that we didn't discover, but now the number of cases is likely to increase. Flu season usually peaks around February, so there's still time to get a flu shot.
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