A health care worker administers a flu vaccine. (David Ramos/Getty Images)

GLOW region has had 3 flu cases

Flu season is also off to a slow start in New York State, which has nearly half as many lab-confirmed cases of the flu six weeks into the 2020-21 flu season than the same period a year ago.

In the four-county GLOW region there has been three cases of the flu, two in Wyoming County for the week ending Nov. 7, and one in Orleans County for the week ending Oct. 24, according to data from the state Department of Health’s Flu Tracker.

No cases have yet been reported in Genesee or Livingston counties.

Flu season begins in Oct. 1 and runs through May. Locally, flu cases peak around February.

Statewide, there have been 444 total cases for the week ending Nov. 7, the most recent data available. The state updates its Flu Tracker by 5 p.m. Thursdays.

A year ago, in what was one of the most severe flu seasons in recent years, there were 870 lab-confirmed cases of flu through six weeks.

For the 2018-19 flu season there were 568 cases, and in 2017-18 the total was 488 for the first six weeks.

The GLOW region saw 2,013 lab-confirmed flu cases for the 2019-20 flu season. These included 695 in Livingston County, 598 in Genesee, 454 in Wyoming and 266 in Orleans.

Last year was the most severe flu season in three years, with a strain of Influenza B – which typically is most common later in the season – being more prevalent early in the season.

It’s important to note, health officials said, that the number of lab-confirmed cases may not reflect the flu’s true prevalence. Not everyone seeks testing for confirmation of the flu and as the flu becomes more widespread it may overwhelm the ability to test and report cases practically even as people are treated for symptoms typical of the flu.

Flu cases remain low across most of the country. This could be because precautions that prevent coronavirus infection such as masks, social distancing and hand washing also make it hard for flu to spread. It could be that Americans have heeded the call to get flu vaccines this year so hospitals aren’t swamped with flu and COVID-19 patients at the same time. Or it could just be the usual calm before the storm.

“Flu is fickle,” said William Schaffner, an infectious diseases specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The southern hemisphere has given us some reason to hope for a mild flu season, Schaffner said. Both New Zealand and Australia, whose flu seasons occur during our summer, had far fewer cases than usual this year. Their residents also got many more flu shots than usual and did a very good job of following social distancing recommendations.

America has been a lot more divided on the social distancing front. Public health officials have strongly encouraged flu shots this year, and that may have had an effect. CVS said it has already given more shots than it did during the whole season last year. It is prepared to administer 18 million shots, twice last year’s total. Walgreen Co. said it has given 60% more flu shots this year than during the same period last year. Rite-Aid also has seen higher demand. Patient First, an urgent care provider, said demand for shots was two to three times higher than last year during the first two weeks vaccines were given. After that rush, it’s been about the same.

Flu shots are recommended for everyone above the age of six months.

Nationally, almost all of the United States is green, the color the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention uses to denote “minimal” infection rates. An outlier in the most recent report was yellow Iowa, which has low flu activity.

Includes reporting by Tribune News Service

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1