Flu Cases Skyrocket Compared To Past Years

Several flu vaccines are lined up in a pan at the L.A. Care and Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plans' Community Resource Center where they were offering members and the public free flu and COVID-19 vaccines Friday, Oct. 28, 2022, in Lynwood, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

State Health Department statistics show a striking increase in early-season flu cases in Chautauqua County compared to the past three years.

Chautauqua County has seen 458 doctor-confirmed cases of the flu since the week ending Oct. 29, including 260 cases the week ending Nov. 12. In 2019-20, the year before the COVID-19 pandemic began, there were only two cases in the same five-day period and four cases total for the same three-week period. In the last pre-pandemic year, the county hasn’t seen diagnosed flu cases begin increasing into the mid-30s until roughly the week before Christmas.

“We’re seeing a huge spike in Influenza A especially, and we’re seeing a lot of RSV,” Chris Cammarata, UPMC Chautauqua Emergency Department medical director, told The Post-Journal recently. “This has been a heavy season for both of those, and we’re really just getting into it. This could certainly last for the next few months.”

Chautauqua County’s flu caseload is the third-highest in Western New York behind only Erie County (1,647) and Monroe County (1,680) and is the highest rate in the state among rural counties.

Diagnoses of the flu are far outpacing COVID-19 cases in the region, according to state Health Department data. The influx of patients at the emergency department is a result of an increased volume of RSV and Influenza patients. While Cammarata said the hospital is still seeing COVID-19 cases, it has remained steady and at what he described as a “fairly low level” compared to the peak of the pandemic. In the seven days ending Nov. 21, the county had only seen 48 confirmed new COVID-19 cases.

Earlier this week, Gov. Kathy Hochul urged New Yorkers to take precautions this holiday season to protect young children, older individuals and those with underlying health conditions from respiratory viruses like RSV, influenza and COVID-19 as infections continue to rise nationwide. With statewide travel and indoor gatherings prevalent around the Thanksgiving holiday, Governor Hochul asked New Yorkers to take common prevention measures — like staying up to date on vaccines and practicing proper hygiene – to protect from these viruses and reduce the patient burden on local hospitals.

“As many New Yorkers look forward to gathering with friends and family during the Thanksgiving holiday, we should also embrace the common sense measures we know to be effective at reducing the spread of respiratory illnesses,” Governor Hochul said. “Be sure to stay up to date on vaccines — including flu shots and COVID-19 boosters. And if you do fall ill or develop symptoms, stay home and first seek treatment from your primary care provider.”


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