The flu is now "widespread" in New York State, the state Department of Health reports. What's that mean? There have been lab-confirmed reports in more than half the counties in the state (48, to be exact). For the latest report, that includes Albany, Saratoga, and Rensselaer counties.
The DOH bases its reports on samples sent to the Wadsworth Lab here in Albany for testing, as well as surveillance reports from healthcare providers about the number of people coming in with influenza-like illnesses.
But many people who get the flu don't end up going to a healthcare provider. So to get a sense of the picture that includes those people, we can look to Google Flu Trends, which uses search data to monitor flu activity (and there's research it actually works pretty well). Google Flu is reporting a recent upswing in flu activity into the "high" level in New York State.
Somewhat oddly, Google Flu reports the Albany area still has relatively low levels of flu activity. But nearby cities -- including Syracuse (corroborated by the DOH report) and New York City -- are at high levels. That could mean the wave has yet to arrive -- or maybe we'll get lucky. (The flu can be hard to predict -- it's kind of like the weather.)
Bottom line: It's still worth it to get a flu shot. The season lasts into the early spring. And it takes a few days post-jab for your body's immune response to get with the program. Unlike in some years past, flu shots are plentiful and easy to get. They're available at many pharmacies now.
In other news: Wash your hands.
graphs: Google Flu Trends
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