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Flu spreading throughout Jefferson County; 301 confirmed cases since Oct. 17

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Jefferson County Public Health Service is worried that the peak of confirmed influenza cases here will come earlier than the typical February time frame.

Health planner Faith E. Lustik said Wednesday there have been 301 confirmed cases of influenza in Jefferson County since Oct. 17.

“We had a small outbreak in Carthage, and it grew from there,” she said. “We’re not sure why it’d be earlier than usual, but of course by holidays people are out more.”

From mid-October to the beginning of November alone there were 47 confirmed cases in the Carthage area.

The worry with this strain of influenza, she said, is reports of high temperatures.

“I hope it just stops,” Ms. Lustik said. “We won’t want to see people in the hospital. It’s really no predictor that it’ll get worse or better. You have to wait and see, and protect yourself.”

There are three flu strains in the vaccine this year, including influenza A — the strain of most confirmed cases in Jefferson County.

“This is a good match,” Ms. Lustik said of the vaccine. “Even if you’ve had the flu, people should still get the vaccine. Even if you get vaccinated and come down with the flu, you may have less symptoms than you otherwise would have.”

Those who have yet to be vaccinated should do so soon, she said, as it takes about two weeks after a person receives the vaccine to obtain immunity.

Since babies under six months old do not receive a flu vaccination, Ms. Lustik said, it’s important for people who are around infants to become protected against the virus.

Vaccines are readily available throughout many communities, including places such as physician offices, Walmart, Kinney Drugs, Rite Aid, Walgreen’s and Price Chopper, among other retail outlets.

According to a Jefferson County Public Health Service news release, the last influenza season ran from October 2011 to May 2012, and there were 57 cases of confirmed flu throughout Jefferson County. The first case during that season wasn’t until March 5.

Ms. Lustik said now is the perfect time to remind people to get vaccinated if they haven’t already done so because Dec. 2 to 8 is National Influenza Vaccination Week. Since flu is easily spread to others, Jefferson County Public Health Service urges people to remember the following helpful hints:

■ Stay home when ill with influenza-like illness.

■ Wash hands often with soap and water.

■ Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth since germs spread that way.

■ Avoid close contact with sick people.

For more information, visit the federal government’s website dedicated to flu knowledge and prevention, www.flu.gov.

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