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Two adult influenza-related deaths reported in Jefferson County

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Jefferson County Public Health Service reported Monday that two Jefferson County residents, both between the ages of 40 and 55, died after having laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza.

The deaths are the first reported in the county this influenza season.

Public Health spokesman Stephen A. Jennings and Supervising Public Health Nurse Patricia A. Esford would not disclose if the residents had received influenza vaccinations or the date of their deaths.

“Although we’ve had two laboratory-confirmed deaths in this county, we haven’t measured in Jefferson County in years past the number of lab cases that are confirmed,” Mrs. Esford said. “We only gather statistics in children.”

The last Jefferson County child to die of flu was a 4-year-old girl in December 2003.

Flu deaths in children are often reported, not in adults. Because it’s unusual that middle-aged people die from influenza complications, the public health agency is working with hospitals and health care providers to track incidence in the county, according to an agency news release.

High-risk groups tend to be children 6 months to 23 months old, adults over 65, pregnant women in the second or third trimester and anyone with an underlying chronic medical condition.

According to a report last week from the Syracuse Post Standard, there recently have been five flu deaths in Onondaga County, all of which involved people in their 40s and 50s. The report said that there also have been two flu deaths in Madison County and one in Oswego County.

In 2012, there were two flu-related deaths in Lewis County. Both were elderly residents.

Many Lewis County residents are now visiting Lewis County General Hospital’s emergency room with flu-like symptoms, but they “don’t necessarily have the flu,” according to hospital spokeswoman Christina L. Flint.

Canton-Potsdam Hospital Infection Prevention Specialist Nancy A. Wood said of the 310 people who have come through Canton-Potsdam Hospital health system to be tested for influenza, 15 people who tested positive for the virus were admitted to the hospital and another 52 received outpatient treatment. The average age of those ill people is 54.

Influenza A, particularly H1N1, is the flu type that has been circulating, Mrs. Esford said.

Influenza is reported widespread throughout the state, according to the state Department of Health. Locally, the peak of flu season is between February and March, but begins each fall.

According to the state Department of Health’s Bureau of Communicable Disease Control Statewide Influenza Surveillance Report for the week ending Feb. 15, of the 18,094 confirmed cases in the state, 40 percent involved 7,158 people between the ages of 18 and 49. There have been 2,782 confirmed cases in people ages 50 to 64.

According to the county public health news release, middle-age and young adults “have less natural immunity for H1N1.” Risk factors, such as obesity, diabetes, lung and heart disease, smoking and any disease that weakens the immune system, such as cancer, also can affect how someone is able to combat influenza. Mrs. Esford said there have been hospitalizations of pregnant women with the flu in Jefferson County.

Jefferson County Public Health Service is encouraging everyone ages 6 months and older to get vaccinated. Even if someone who got the vaccine gets the flu, it will be a less severe case compared with if they didn’t get the shot.

For more information, including a list of immunization clinics, call 386-2325 for St. Lawrence County Public Health, 786-3770 for Jefferson County Public Health or 376-5453 for Lewis County Public Health. Physician offices, urgent care centers and local pharmacies also offer the vaccine.

The vaccine is offered at Med Ready Urgent Care. Physician assistant William E. Downey said he has seen many people who haven’t been vaccinated come to the outer Washington Street facility with the flu.

“There are so many drug stores that have them, too,” he said. “There’s no reason why people couldn’t have gotten the flu shot.”

prevent the flu
Jefferson County Public Health Service has offered the following tips to help prevent influenza, and related complications:
• Get vaccinated.
• Practice good respiratory and hygiene etiquette, including avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
• Stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick.
• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
• Wash your hands often to help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work, or school, especially when someone is ill.
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