Items tagged with 'flu'

Yep, it's flu season

google flu trends albany 2014-01-16

A quick flu update: Influenza activity appears to have taken a sharp upswing over the past few weeks in this area. The graph above is from Google Flu Trends' experimental cities reporting for Albany (methodology). The state Department of Health's latest flu surveillance report -- which is now almost a week old -- also indicated a recent rise in activity. It also reported that flu had been reported in all but just a few of the state's counties during the previous week.

This morning, a group of Capital Region hospitals announced they're putting in place stricter visitation guidelines in response to the uptick in flu activity. (Press release is post jump.) The group of hospitals includes Albany Med, St. Peter's Health Partners, Ellis, and Saratoga Hospital. This isn't really uncommon -- they've made the same move in a few other recent years.

While flu activity does appear to have made a jump in recent weeks, it doesn't appear to have reached the same sort of level of activity seen during the peak of last season, which was relatively high. Even so, it could still be worth getting a flu shot (find one). And at the very least, a little more attention toward washing your hands and covering your mouth when you cough (elbow!) isn't a bad idea.

It's a dry cold: An interesting -- and potentially relevant, given the recent bout of very cold, and thus low humidity, weather -- bit of flu nerding: There's research that points to the flu becoming more active following periods of low humidity. [NIH]

graph: Google Flu Trends

To do: Get a flu shot

nys flu surveillance map week ending 2013-12-14

Something to think about doing soon: getting a flu shot.

The latest influenza surveillance report (a week old) for New York State has the flu now designated as "widespread" in the state. That is, there have been lab-confirmed reports of flu in many counties around the state -- 34 plus New York City. The Capital Region core counties are part of that group.

This year's flu season is yet cranking like last season, which saw a big surge in cases around the end of December and beginning of January. But the number of cases in the official state health department report is trending upward a bit statewide, and Google Flu Trends is reporting a similar upward trend for the state and the Albany area.

So, it's still not a bad time to get a flu shot. It takes the body a week or two ramp up its immune response to the jab. Here's the CDC's page with info about the flu vaccine, including a flu shot finder. Finding a place to get the vaccine is a lot easier now than it was just a few years ago -- many pharmacies now offer right in the store (and your health plan might even cover it).

map: NYS DOH, retrieve 2013-12-20

Shoo, flu, shoo

google flu trends albany 2013-01-30

The Google Flu Trends graph for the Albany area through January 29.

There are indications the tide has turned for the flu season. The number of positive lab tests and emergency room visits are both down sharply in the state Department of Health flu surveillance report posted today (for the week ending January 26). And Google Flu Trends is also showing a recent decline in activity for both the state and the Albany area.

That's not to say the flu wave has completely passed us by. DOH reports the flu is still "widespread" in the state, with lab-confirmed reports in 53 counties. And Google Flu is still reporting "high" activity. It's just that things appear to be calming down in what's been the most severe flu season since 2009-2010.

And, of course, there's other stuff in circulation beyond the flu. There's that cold that so many people seem to have right now. And there's also the norovirus, the current media favorite for scaring the crap out of people.

In other news: wash your hands.

graph: Google Flu Trends

Capital Region hospitals tightening visitation guidelines because of flu

Thumbnail image for albany medical center exteriorHospitals around the region announced temporary visitation guidelines Friday because of widespread flu activity. From the joint press release:

Patient units of Albany Medical Center; Ellis Medicine acute care hospitals including Bellevue Woman's Center and Ellis Hospital; Glens Falls Hospital; St. Peter's Health Partners acute care hospitals including Albany Memorial Hospital, Samaritan Hospital, St. Mary's Hospital (Troy), St. Peter's Hospital, and Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital; and Saratoga Hospital will request that visits be restricted by:
+ children 12 and under (who are more likely to have and transmit respiratory infections);
+ any visitor with respiratory symptoms (fever, sore throat, cough, shortness of breath) a rash or diarrhea; and,
+ only two visitors will be permitted in a patient's room at one time.
The hospitals are also urging all visitors to use hand-washing stations before entering and upon leaving a patient's room. Hand sanitizers are available at many hospital entrances and at many other locations throughout these hospitals, including the doorways of many patient rooms.

Full release post jump.

As if the flu wasn't bad enough this year, the dreaded norovirus also seems to be in circulation. Headline no one wants to read: "Is it the flu or norovirus? How to tell the difference". Followed closely by: "Want to avoid spewmageddon? Here's a simple guide" [Boston Globe] [Guardian]

We'll say it again: If you're sick, please stay home if possible. Please cough into your elbow. And please wash your hands.

Earlier: Someone finally sticks it to Andrew Cuomo. (It being a flu shot -- and you should think about getting one, too.)

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Someone finally sticks it to Andrew Cuomo

andrew cuomo flu shot 2013-01-10

And it turns out that person was Dr. Nirav Shah, the state's health commissioner. He jabbed the governor with a flu shot Thursday.

The best line probably came from Jimmy Vielkind on Twitter: "I think this entire thing was an excuse for Andrew Cuomo to have a picture of his biceps in the newspapers."

As mentioned, this is turning out to be a rather active year for the flu. The recent wave prompted Boston to declare a public health emergency this week -- the city was robocalling people urging them to get flu shots. [AOA] [Google Flu Trends] [AP/ABC] [Boston Globe]

While it would have been better to get the jab a few weeks back (or earlier), it's still not a bad idea to roll up your sleeve for one. They're super easy to find this season -- you can walk into pretty much any Walgreen's/CVS/Rite Aid and get one at the pharmacy. It costs about $30 for the regular flu shot (it might be covered by your health plan). Sure, it takes a week or two for your body to build up immunity from the shot, but the flu could continue to be active for months.

And while you might think, "Eh, I'm relatively young and healthy, I'll be fine" -- that may be true, but if you pick up the virus you could end up spreading it to people who are not so young and/or healthy. There have been multiple studies indicating that vaccinating young people -- kids, especially -- ends up being a good way of protecting seniors from the flu.

Also: getting the flu -- the real flu, not just a cold -- sucks.

Here's a bunch of info about flu shots from the CDC (there are a few options, including a version that doesn't involve getting stuck with a needle). The health agency recently reported that this season's shot (it changes each year) is a pretty good match for what's been circulating.

In other news: We'll say it again, cover your mouth when you cough. Wash your hands.

photo: Cuomo admin Flickr

Viral news

google flu nys albany 2012-12-11

From Google Flu Trends.

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

Flu season fizzle?

google flu trends albany 2012-04-02

The dark blue line is the current season.

Now that spring is here, we're nearing the end of the traditional flu season.* And much like this past winter, this flu season has been something less than formidable (thankfully).

The graph above is Google Flu Trends track of flu-related search data for the Albany area this season, compared to previous seasons. (Google says the city specific tracking is still experimental -- here's the graph for New York State.) The state Department of Health's reports also point to a mild season around the state -- visits to sentinel providers are down a lot compared to last season, the number of hospitalized patients for flu is way down, and the percent of emergency room visits for flu has been more or less flat for the season.

But... Interestingly, there's been a recent uptick in the number of positive flu tests -- the week of March 24 had the highest number of positive reports all season. And the number of hospitalized patients is on the upswing. Let's hope that doesn't continue to develop.

On tracking bugs: More than flu this season, we noticed (anecdotally, online and off, whatever that's worth (not a whole lot)) many more people complaining of The Cold That Just Won't Quit (early winter) and the Stomach Bug from Hell (over the last month). It'd be great if someone could develop a way to glean this kind of stuff from Twitter and Facebook, and then provide reports. "Hello, we've noticed a recent increase in the number of your friends reporting being sick..."

* If you talk with flu researchers, they'll tell you the "flu season" is often neither typical nor traditional. For example, in 2008-2009, some of the highest activity months in New York State were May and June. The flu is the like weather -- you can make reasonable guesses based on patterns, but you never really know until it happens.

graph: Google Flu Trends

Slow start for the flu -- and then there's whatever the other thing is

google flu trends albany 2011-11-20

The results for Albany from Google Flu Trends' experimental cities model. The dark blue is this year, the light blue lines are previous years.

We've been noticing what seems like a lot of coughing and sickness going around recently, so we had a look at Google Flu Trends to get a sense of how this year's flu season is shaping up.

And the answer so far: it's been slow (here's New York State's graph, which based on a model that's been tested against previous years). The state Department of Health's official reports, which lag about a week, also are reporting a slow start.

The takeaway here: there's still time to get a flu shot. And the sooner the better, since it takes your body some time to build resistance based on the vaccine. Compared to some of the seasons in the past decade that were marked by shortages and crushes at doctors offices, flu shots have become almost ridiculously easy to get. Most of the major pharmacies are now offering them.

Flu experts will tell you there's no such thing as a "typical" flu season -- the pattern of these things is just something we don't really have a good handle on. So just because things have started out slowly doesn't really mean much. Things could change quickly. Or not.

That other sickness
While the flu doesn't appear to really be kicking yet this year, something else does seem to be going around (anecdotally). We've noticed a handful of people who've come down with a cough that just won't quit. Mrs. Greg finally broke down and went to the doctor recently after about three weeks of it, a few better days, and then a relapse. The doctor told her he's been seeing a bunch of people with the same pattern: cold and cough for weeks, better for a few days, then a relapse before getting better again.

Just a reminder that the microbes own this world -- we're just living here.

graph: Google Flu Trends

There's still time for a flu shot

google flu ny 2010-11-15

Flu activity in New York State as tracked by Google Flu Trends over the last handful of season. The dark blue line is the current year. That big early spike was 2009.

The feverish state one of the editors was in yesterday had us thinking about the flu. So we checked out Google Flu Trends to see how this season is shaping up so far.

Flu experts will tell you there's no such thing as a "normal" flu season, but we don't appear to be off to anything you might consider a weird start. As you can see from Google's graph above, last year's flu season included a big early season spike.

Google's formula is based on search activity, not actual reported lab or doctors' office data. It appears to do a good job, though. (Both the New York State Department of Health and the federal Centers of Disease Control track the official data.) It would be interesting to see Twitter and Facebook updates folded in somehow.

Google is also now experimenting with data for metro areas -- here's Albany. Last year's data indicated Albany experienced an "intense" flu wave in early November.

All this is to say, if you haven't gotten a flu shot, there's still time to do so. Here's a flu shot finder.

Earlier on AOA: RPI's "beer pong" flu: a highly transmissible story

graph: Google Flu Trends

The "intense" flu wave

google flu us nys alb

Much calmer now.

Google Flu Trends is now breaking out data for a bunch metro areas in the United States -- including the Capital Region. So we pulled the numbers for last flu season and the current one.

The graph above charts flu activity as measured by the Google Flu algorithm. The system characterized that late October peak as "intense" activity.

Google's formula is based on search activity, not actual reported lab or doctors' office data (it appears to do a pretty good job). The New York State Department of Health does track those reports -- and its data roughly match Google's.

Even though the current flu activity level is characterized as "low," it's still probably not a bad idea to get a flu shot. Influenza is hard to predict. This season could be over early -- or there might be another peak ahead. There's plenty of vaccine now available -- and a bunch of opportunities to get the jab.

via @NMessier and TC

Chart data from Google Flu Trends

If you've been waiting on an H1N1 shot...

Thumbnail image for flu shot needleWait no longer. The state apparently now has a glut of H1N1 flu shots. There are a bunch of public clinics scheduled. And it's still probably a good idea.

Here's a list of public clinics around the Capital Region...

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Education groups sue over state aid, Schumer apologizes to flight attendant, police say stolen Timberlands kicked off chase, Albany councilman calls for cancellation of "Jersey Shore"

A coalition of education groups -- headed by NYSUT -- filed suit against David Paterson yesterday in attempt to eliminate the delay in education aid payments. The coalition argues that Paterson has overstepped his authority -- and the uncertainty created the action is making budgeting difficult. Paterson accused the coalition of trying to be "extra special" interest groups. [TU] [NYT] [Fox23] [Daily Politics]

Saratoga Springs' finance commissioner says the city may have to borrow money to cover the gap created by delayed state aid payments. [Saratogian]

Democrats in the Rensselaer County legislature says three incoming Republicans should not be allowed to serve in both the county legislature and their town boards. One of the incoming Republicans called the practice "totally legal." [TU] [Troy Record]

Richard Daines, New York's health commissioner, got an H1N1 shot during a photo opp yesterday. Even though flu activity in the state is decling, Daines called the flu a "tricky virus" and urged people to still get vaccinated. [CapNews9] [TU] [Fox23]

Chuck Schumer apologized yesterday for calling a flight attendant a "bitch" after she told him to stop talking on his mobile phone. Kirsten Gillibrand was sitting next to him on the plane (and apparently did end her call) and Republicans are now criticizing her for not publicly condemning Schumer's actions. [NYDN] [Politico] [NYT] [Daily Politics]

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A lull in flu season?

flu season chart ny 2009-12

The last seven flu seasons in New York State

First updated Tuesday at 11:55 pm and then again Wednesday morning

The chart above depicts flu activity in New York State over the last seven flu seasons as measured by Google Flu. As you can see, this year's season got off to an unusually early start.

So, we're in the clear? Maybe.

It appears that the H1N1 wave has passed through the area. But if you dig through the surveillance reports from the CDC, you'll notice that almost all the samples that have been sub-typed are H1N1. This is the case both for New York's region and the nation as a whole.

What's that mean? Well, it could (emphasis on the could) mean that the "regular" flu season -- with its "typical" after-December peak -- is still ahead of us. (Or it might not -- the flu season in the southern hemisphere this year appeared to be mostly H1N1.)

So if you've been thinking about getting a flu shot, it's still probably a good idea.* That's true for the H1N1 jab, too (it's been so long since a flu virus similar to H1N1 has bounced around that most people don't have built-up immunity to it).

The feds have put together a flu shot locator for both seasonal and H1N1 shots (the box on the right). Albany County is giving free H1N1 shots through the end of the year by appointment (447-4505 to register). And also try your doctor for seasonal flu shots.

Update Wednesday morning

Saratoga County says it will start giving H1N1 shots to people not in priority groups starting January 1. [Saratogian]

Also: it looks some of the re-called doses of H1N1 vax did make it to the Capital Region. Schenectady County says 73 kids got the less-potent shots at its clinics. And Albany County says it got 200 doses, but didn't distribute them.

The shots, which were intended for kids, were recalled because tests indicated their potency had declined. [NYT]

* We are not doctors. Talk to your doctor.

chart data: Google Flu

Pension system for new state workers adjusted, NYRA aims to stop horse slaughter, another bank robbery, Albany Institute scraping financially, dog rescued with help of plumbing camera

David Paterson signed legislation that creates a new tier -- "Tier V" -- for the state employee pension system raises the retirement age and requires workers to contribute more. It's being touted as the biggest change to the pension system in 25 years. Paterson says the change will save New York State $35 billion over the next 30 years. [TU] [Fox23] [Paterson op-ed in TU]

The federal officials who handled the investigation and prosecution of Joe Bruno say they will continue to focus on ethics violations at the state capitol. [TU]

The state is no longer limiting distribution of the H1N1 flu vaccine to people in priority groups. Albany County has scheduled times next week for residents to get the jab. [AP/TU] [Albany County]

According to court documents obtained by the TU, the three teens accused of murdering Richard Bailey allegedly gave police detailed -- and different -- accounts of the night of the murder. [TU]

NYRA announced yesterday that any horse owner who sells their horses to slaughter -- "either knowingly or for lack of due diligence" -- will have their stalls revoked at Saratoga and the other NYRA tracks. [Saratogian] [CapNews9] [Post-Star]

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Another round of flu shot clinics

flu shot needleAlbany County and, for the first time, Rensselaer County have free H1N1 flu shot clinics coming up. Both counties are only offering the shots to residents in priority groups. Pre-registration is required.

Details after jump.

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More H1N1 flu shot clinics

flu shot needle

Jab.

Update: The Albany County clinic is now full.

Both Albany County and Schenectady County have free H1N1 flu shot clinics coming up. Both counties' clinics are only open to county residents.

Albany County

Nov 22 | 10 am - 4:30 pm | TU Center
Nov 24 | 3:30 pm - 7 pm | Berne Knox Westerlo Elementary School

The clinic is open to people in the following priority groups: pregnant women,
people over age 4 who live with or provide care for infants younger than 6 months of age, health care and emergency medical personnel, people aged 4-24 years and people aged 25 to 64 years who have medical conditions that put them at higher risk for influenza-related complications.

The county says it doesn't have pediatric vaccine available for kids 6 months to 47 months.

Registration is required.

Schenectady County

Nov 20 and 23 - Schenectady County offices at 107 Nott Terrace in Schenectady.

The clinics will be open to the same priority groups as Albany County, plus children 6 months to pre-k.

You'll need an appointment -- call 386-2824.

Also: If you can't make it to one of the clinics -- or you live in Saratoga County or Rensselaer County -- give your doctor's office a call. New vaccine shipments have apparently been gradually arriving.

Rensselaer County's web site says it does not plan to hold H1N1 flu shot clinics.

photo: James Gathany / CDC

H1N1 shot clinic Sunday at TU Center

H1N1 micrograph

An electron micrograph of H1N1 virions. The image has been colorized.

The Albany County Department of Health is holding a free H1N1 flu shot clinic at the TU Center this Sunday. Apparently there will be about 4,500 doses available.

The health department's web site stresses that you must register in advance -- and it's currently registering Albany County residents in the following priority groups:

  • Pregnant women
  • Persons who live with or provide care for infants under 6 months old
  • Children 6 months - 4 years old
  • Health-care and emergency medical services personnel who have direct contact with patients or infectious materials
  • Children and adolescents 5-18 years old who have medical conditions that put them at higher risk for influenza-related complications

You can register online (be sure to follow the link for the appropriate priority group) -- or by calling 447-4505 from 8:30 am - 4:30 pm (Arielle says she registered her toddler this way this morning).

Turnout at other H1N1 vaccine clinics around the Capital Region has been strong, so it's probably a good idea to register sooner rather than later.

Saratoga County: Saratoga County Public Health has an H1N1 flu shot clinic for priority scheduled for tomorrow in Saratoga Springs. It's by appointment only, though. And when we checked this morning (after a three dials to get through), it was full. The person handling the calls said the county is hoping it will receive more doses next week.

image: Cynthia Goldsmith / CDC

First witnesses in Bruno trial, doctors flooded with requests for flu shot, public info meetings on post office closures, Thriller dance cancelled for lack of space

Here's a rundown of notable election results from yesterday. In some of the highest profile races: Jerry Jennings cruised to victory in the Albany mayoral election, Paula Mahan beat Mike Hoblock for Colonie supervisor, Republicans swept the contested seats on the Saratoga Springs city council, Republicans Bob Mirch and Neil Kelleher were both bounced from the Rensselaer County legislature. [AOA] [TU] [TU] [Saratogian] [Troy Record]

The new optical scan voting machines seemed to work out OK yesterday. [TU]

The first witnesses in the Joe Bruno trial took the stand yesterday. The head of an Albany investment firm testified that his consulting payments to Bruno increased after the senator became majority leader -- and that Bruno was responsible for bringing in $400,000 in revenue from labor unions. A former Bruno staff attorney testified that he "was not involved" in Bruno's business ventures, but did say he provided legal advice about agreements between Bruno and clients. [CapNews9] [Fox23] [TU]

Local doctors' offices say they've been deluged with patients calling for the H1N1 vaccine. [TU]

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Human skull fragments in Saratoga County, flu hitting some schools, school board hears Whalen appeal, Rensselaer stations Amtrak's 10th busiest

State police say fragments of a human skull were found in a wooded area in Greenfield (map). They say it appears the skull belonged to a child 10-12 years old. The state police lab will be testing the fragments for DNA. [TU] [Fox23] [Saratogian] [CapNews9]

The Empire Center reports that 1.5 million New Yorkers have moved out of the state since 2000. The one area to show a population gain: the Capital Region. [Empire Center] [CapNews9] [Post-Star]

A spokesman for the state Office of Court Administration says judges are leaving the bench because "they can't make ends meet" on their $136,700 salary. The state's judiciary has been pushing for a pay raise for years. [TU]

Albany police say four men, armed with guns, invaded a house on Washington Ave yesterday (map). Police say the it appears the house was targeted. They say the robbers used zip-ties to tie up seven people in the house. [Fox23] [CapNews9] [TU]

Some Capital Region schools are reporting higher than usual rates of absenteeism because of the flu. Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons cancelled classes yesterday because so many students were sick. [TU] [WTEN]

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Even statues fear the flu

statue flu

She didn't get a flu shot, either.

Both Peter and Eileen sent us pics of the statue on the memorial in Washington Park yesterday afternoon. As you can see in the photo above, the statue is wearing a mask. Emailed Eileen:

Spotted this sight on a walk through Washington Park today ... [and] ask you and your readers - why?
Is it a reference to the silencing of the statue? Or does she have swine flu? Or something I haven't thought of yet?

Our first thought upon the seeing the pic was that the mask was a flu reference. Peter had the same thought.

Anyone have the scoop?

By the way: it doesn't look like getting the mask on that statue was a quick hit. It probably involved a bit of climbing -- see the other photo from Eileen (after the jump).

(Thanks, Eileen and Peter!)

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Thomas found guilty, guilty plea in 40 year old murder, home sales falling through, upstate teaching jobs in high demand, busy beavers causing trouble

A jury found Adrian Thomas guilty of second-degree murder in the case of his infant son's death. The jury reached the decision Friday afternoon after 25 hours of deliberation. Thomas' stepmother says the verdict was influenced by race -- eleven of the jurors were white and one was African-American. Sentencing is scheduled for November 12. Thomas' attorneys say they will appeal. [Troy Record] [TU] [WTEN] [Fox23] [WNYT] [CBS6]

Nelson Costello, the man accused of killing David Bacon 40 years ago in Waterford, pleaded guilty to manslaughter Friday. Recordings of phone conversations between Costello and witness apparently helped prompt the plea. Costello's attorney says his client is remorseful and "almost wants to be punished." Costello has apparently agreed to help officials find Bacon's body in Virginia. [TU] [Saratogian] [WTEN] [WNYT]

There's been yet another report of an attempted abduction, this time in Albany (map). [Fox23] [WNYT]

Archaelogists have found the skeleton of an infant at the former grave site turned up during the Delaware Ave reconstruction in Albany. The remains will be re-buried at a cemetery in Glenmont. [CapNews9] [TU]

David Paterson has scheduled a special session of the legislature for November 10 to address the budget gap. He also wants a joint session on November 9. [NYO] [CapNews9]

(there's more)

Official warns that state won't be able to pay bills, flu shot shortage, Troy will get money for homelessness after all, airlift wing headed for Antarctica

The state budget director says the state may not have enough cash to cover all its scheduled payments in mid-December. David Paterson and the legislative leaders met yesterday about covering the $3 billion budget gap, though it doesn't sound like they made much progress. Paterson said that the state is facing an economy that he believes will be "the worst we will see in our lifetime." [TU] [Daily Politics] [WTEN]

There was another mugging in downtown Troy. The TPD says its planning more community meetings about crime after a tip from the one this week lead to a drug bust. [Troy Record] [Fox23]

A judge has denied Save the Pine Bush's request for a restraining order that would have prevented the Albany landfill expanding from proceeding. [TU]

Public clinics and doctors' offices say they're having a tough time getting enough doses of seasonal flu vaccine. Saratoga County had to cancel its upcoming flu shot clinics because it couldn't get sufficient supplies. There have been flu shot shortages all around the US because of increased demand and the need to concurrently manufacture the vax for H1N1. [TU] [Post-Star] [NYT]

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The flu was here. Just now.

flu bathroom sign

Just in case you weren't already headed for the sink.

This sign -- which was posted in a bathroom in a state office building in downtown Albany -- made its way to us recently. The somewhat-ominous tone of the message caught our attention. You know, it's almost like it's saying: The Flu! It was here right before you! Lookout!

You might not think it would be necessary to remind people to wash their hands in a bathroom. Alas, that's not the case. A observational survey a few years back reported that 75 percent -- and only 66 percent of men -- washed their hands after using a public restroom. Other studies have reported even lower rates.

There's some evidence that signs like this one do get more people to wash up. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health by researchers in London reported that people were more likely to use soap and water when signs put their actions in some sort of social context -- especially if people got the impression that others were watching.

By the way: Google Flu trends reports that flu activity in New York State is already high and still rising. So, uh... wash your hands.

If you need some encouragement, there's a rather enthusiastic handwashing dance from Japan embedded after the jump.

(Thanks, Anonymous)

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RPI's "beer pong" flu: a highly transmissible story

weekend update

The story was mentioned on SNL's Weekend Update this past weekend.

The media are pretty much defenseless against stories like the recent "RPI beer pong flu" story. No journalistic immune system can withstand a story that combines such topicality, weirdness, a health scare and drunk college students. And once stories like this find a host, they're pretty much guaranteed to spread -- often mutating along the way.

The RPI story was no exception. It's spread all over the media world during the last week and a a half. Given that we're pretty sure we know the index case, we thought it'd be interesting/fun to do some media epidemiology.

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Court halts mandatory flu shots for health workers, stabbing in Glenmont, small pumpkin crop, Paterson-Schwarzenegger friendship

A state Supreme Court judge has issued a temporary halt to the state-mandated flu shots for health care workers. A handful of lawsuits, including one filed by three Albany Med nurses, argue that state Department of Health overstepped its authority in requiring the vaccinations. The state health department says it's "confident that the regulation will be upheld." [NYT] [TU] [AP/Troy Record] [WTEN]

Neil Breslin and a group of other state senators are calling for Hiram Monserrate, recently convicted of misdemeanor assault, to quit -- or get kicked out of the Senate. Breslin said that Monserrate's exit is a necessary step toward the state Senate earning back the public's trust. [TU] [AP/Troy Record]

Shop owners and residents near Hackett Middle School in Albany say students have been causing a bunch of problems right after school as they walk through the neighborhood (map). [TU]

Investors with an Albany investment company currently under federal investigation say they raised red flags about the operation more than two years ago. [TU]

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Nurses say they're suing over flu shot requirement, couple accused of abandoning dogs, car registration stickers not sticking, cities try to solve crow problem, fish pedicure ban proposed

Four Albany Med nurses are filing a lawsuit against the state health commissioner over the state's flu shot requirement for health care workers. The nurses say the requirement is a violation of their civil liberties. One of them says they "don't believe in" the vaccine. The nurses could be suspended -- and later fired -- if they don't get the shot. Their attorney says they'll quit if the state doesn't drop the requirement. [TU] [CapNews9] [WNYT] [WTEN] [Troy Record]

An East Greenbush woman says the incident in which a teenager was allegedly thrown onto a bonfire last week is just part of a string of ongoing violence between two rival groups in the town. The mother of the burned teen says the alleged attack was racially motivated. [WTEN] [WTEN]

State police have arrested two people in Rensselaer County for allegedly abandoning their dogs with no food or water in a house. Police accuse the couple of moving to a new house -- and leaving the dogs behind. The dogs were found -- hungry and thirsty -- last week after a neighbor noticed them. Police say the couple had moved out weeks before. Shelter workers say it looks like the dogs will be OK. [Fox23] [CapNews9] [CBS6] [Troy Record] [WNYT]

Two Delmar women are pushing for a Bethlehem town law that would require cat owners to keep their pets in doors. The women say their neighborhood as become overrun with cat poop -- "You can't even walk around the circle without the scent of cat urine and feces knocking you down," says one of them. [TU] [Spotlight]

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Losers get H1N1. Maybe the winners, too.

RPI sent out a campus update this afternoon about H1N1. From the email, which was posted by RPInsider (emphasis added):

Our caseload is still low, but it is steadily growing. It is important to note that we have linked several of the cases to specific social events on campus, such as football games and weekend parties. Please, especially during such events, remember to continue to wash your hands, avoid close contact with others, and NEVER share cups or utensils. Remember, you can get the flu from someone who does not yet appear to be ill.
Unfortunately, some of our current cases were apparently contracted during a weekend drinking game. Do not share drinks. Alcohol does not kill the virus or prevent its spread from person to person. While it might seem fun over the weekend, it will not be enjoyable when you and your friends are sick and missing class or midterm examinations.

Keep that in mind before your next beer pong match.

Jurors watch video of father's admission, teacher alleges assessment test cheating, reported indictment in alleged plot against former DA, bank moves to foreclose on Cannon Building

Jurors in the trial of Adrian Thomas, the Troy man accused of causing the death of his infant son, watched video of his interrogation yesterday in which he demonstrated how he threw his son down on a bed. The demonstration came after hours of interrogation and a good cop/bad cop routine by Troy police detectives. Thomas' defense is arguing the admission was coerced. [WTEN][TU] [Troy Record]

NYRA has extended next year's Saratoga racing season by four days -- for a total of 40 days. The extended season will include a Grade 1 stakes race that was previously held at Belmont. Saratoga business owners seemed pretty happy about the longer season. [TU] [Post-Star] [Saratogian]

Downtown Saratoga business owners aren't so happy about the proposed plan for paid parking. [Saratogian]

One of the teachers who alleges that she was being secretly videotaped at an Albany charter school has accused the school of letting students cheat on assessment tests. The executive director of the Brighter Choice foundation, which backs the school, says they're looking into the "serious allegations." [Troy Record] [CapNews9]

Albany police say a 19-year-old was stabbed in the Grand Street neighborhood yesterday afternoon (map). The man was reportedly in critical condition last night. Police say it appears the stabbing was part of a street fight. Neighbors held a peace vigil near the scene of the crime yesterday evening. [CBS6] [CapNews9] [Fox23] [TU]

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Flu season is here. Already.

target hand sanitizer shelfFlu activity in New York State is already at "high" levels, according to Google Flu Trends. That's a good month or two before it usually hits that mark. And Google's algorithm has the national level pegged even higher right now.

The CDC reports that New York's flu activity level is "regional" -- that's the second-highest level. Many parts of the country are already at "widespread."

It could be simple coincidence, but amid all the talk about the flu we noticed on a recent trip to the Colonie Target that the hand sanitizer section been pretty well picked over (photo on the right). And as Matt noticed, people are putting the stuff out there.

The American Lung Association maintains a listing of local flu shot clinics -- the Capital Region has a bunch scheduled. It might be easier to score a shot at a clinic than your doctor's office -- WNYT reported that some local practices are saying their shipments have been slow to arrive.

And if you're looking for an H1N1 shot -- that could be harder to come by. The Capital Region received its first shipments of that vax yesterday.

Update Thursday at 1:30 pm: the ASP reports that two cases of H1N1 have popped up at UAlbany this week. RPI and Sage have already reported cases this school year.

Paterson order state agencies to cut back, proposed Saratoga budget includes paid parking, natural gas prices down, teachers say they were secretly videotaped

David Paterson has ordered state agencies to cut their non-personnel expenses (travel, equipment, office supplies) by about 11 percent -- a move that his administration says will save the state $500 million. Paterson has been projecting that the state will face a $3 billion budget gap this year. He's been criticized for not setting an overarching lists of cuts -- but the governor says he's letting the legislature "participate in formulating that menu." [NYS DoB] [NYT] [AP/Troy Record] [TU]

The witness lists for both the prosecution and defense in the Joe Bruno trial include more than 100 names (with a lot of overlap). The lists include current state senators, current and former state officials, legislative staffers and two journalists. [Troy Record] [TU] [NYT]

The budget proposed by Saratoga Springs' finance commissioner includes a 7.8 percent tax increase, 50 job cuts and a plan for paid parking on city streets and lots. [Saratoga Springs] [Fox23] [TU] [Saratogian]

The first batch of H1N1 vaccine arrived in the Capital Region yesterday. Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady counties have all received limited quantities (in the hundreds of doses). Albany Med received 1000 doses. The focus on flu this year has apparently prompted a lot of interest in flu shots -- and local doctors' offices report that they they're having trouble getting shipments of the regular seasonal flu vaccine. [Daily Gazette $] [Fox23] [Saratogian] [Schenectady County] [CapNews9] [WTEN] [WNYT]

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School board member party photos draw interest from police, DMV fees going up, Albany FreeNet expanding, cutbacks come to David Paterson's face

The Schenectady County DA says police will be looking into photos (originally posted on Facebook) that show a Schenectady school board member and his wife -- who's a teacher -- drinking from a Jagermeister luge and doing a keg stand at their son's high school graduation party. [TU] [WTEN] [Daily Gazette $]

DMV fees go up today -- the cost of renewing a driver's license is going up $14.50. Next year, car registrations will require a new license plate ($25) -- and keeping the same license number will cost an extra $20. Jim Tedisco called the higher fees a tax increase. Rensselaer County's clerk said the state legislature is treating the DMV like "a cash cow." [TU] [Saratogian] [WNYT] [CapNews9]

David Paterson and other state officials were at a middle school in Albany yesterday to raise awareness about prep for flu season. Officials say the recently emerged H1N1 flu is likely to flare up in schools. Local school districts and colleges say they're getting the word out about preventive measures to parents and students. [CapNews9] [Fox23] [TU]

A state comptroller's report indicates that county sales tax receipts in the Capital Region are down more than six percent this year. In Saratoga County, which the report indicates is down 12 percent, officials said the numbers seemed off the mark. [NYS Comptroller] [Saratogian]

(there's more)

Senate drama staggers forward, calls for Tuffey to be fired, APD starts rewards for tips program, it's DMB weekend in Saratoga

The state Senate -- or, at least, part of it -- went into session yesterday... for about 20 minutes. Hiram Monserrate -- one of the Democratic switchers -- walked out, bring the session to a halt. Monserrate said he's trying to bring more Democrats into the coalition -- but other suspect he's playing both sides in an attempt to the score the best deal. [TU] [NYT] [NYDN] [NYP]

Another hold up in the Senate yesterday: Democrats locked the cabinet that holds the bills.

Most of the action yesterday was in court, where Democrats tried to challenge the overthrow. The didn't win much -- and they'll be back in court today. However, they did get an order blocking Pedro Espada, who's (maybe?) the new Senate president pro tem, from becoming acting governor were something to happen to David Paterson. Apparently some are concerned that Espada could issue pardons if Paterson traveled out of state -- even a pardon to... himself. [AP/Daily Gazette] [Daily Politics] [TU]

Espada is apparently trying to pull other Democrats into the coalition by pushing for a vote on the same-sex marriage bill. [Daily Politics]

The big issue in the background of this whole struggle: redistricting. [Newsday]

Now that Albany police chief James Tuffey is back at work in an administrative role, Shawn Morris and Corey Ellis -- both mayoral candidates -- are calling for him to be fired. Tuffey said he's not going anywhere. Jerry Jennings says he still supports Tuffey: "I run this city. They don't run this city. I made this decision, I'll stand by it." [TU] [Fox23]

(there's more)

Earth gently relieving its stress, Paterson calls for calorie counts on menus, Golisano says state bailed on us, Pink Palace sold, guy wins car with hold-in-one

Today is school budget and school board voting day. [CapNews9]

A geologist at the State Museum says the recent string of small earthquakes in Berne is a good thing because stresses in the earth are being released gently. [AOA] [TU]

Police are continuing to investigate the former doctor who's accused of torching Saratoga Winners for the insurance money. Among the points of interest: alleged paycheck irregularities at his staffing firm and a burned-down hair salon. [TU]

Republican Mary Ann McGinn -- an attorney with an MBA -- says she's running for Albany City Treasurer. The current -- and embattled -- treasurer, Democrat Betty Barnette, is also facing a primary challenge. [TU]

Sixteen schools in New York City have now been closed because of the recent flare up of the emerging H1N1 flu. Public officials aren't sure if the school closings actually help, though. The state health department is trying to get a centralized system together to track student illnesses -- the hope being such a system would help officials identify an outbreak earlier. [NYT] [NYT] [AP/CapNews9]

David Paterson has proposed state legislation that would require chain restaurants to post calorie information on their menus. The rule might even apply to places such as Stewart's. [TU] [Troy Record]

(there's more)

Police say Saratoga Winners fire was arson, earthquake near Berne, two men Cheney'd while hunting turkey, time capsule found

Colonie police say the owner of Saratoga Winners set the club on fire so he could collect the insurance money. The owner is a former gynecologist -- his medical license was revoked 2006. [Troy Record] [TU]

The USGS reports there was a magnitude 3 earthquake near Berne last night -- people report that it woke them up. [USGS] [CBS6]

Stillwater says water usage in the town is down 2 million gallons (no time frame given)-- perhaps out of concern about PCB contamination from the Hudson seeping into the town's wells. [CapNews9]

One of the highest-profile potential primary challengers to Kirsten Gillibrand says he won't run for the Senate. Steve Israel, a Congressman from Long Island, says President Obama asked him to not challenge Gillibrand. [TU] [NYT]

A man in New York City died last night from complications related to the emerging H1N1 influenza -- New York's State's first reported death from the virus. NYC has closed 10 schools in an effort to keep a lid on another flu flare up. [NYT]

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Here's your diploma and congratulatory wave

hand sanitizerThe no-shake graduation is spreading.

First, it was Sage -- and now RPI has succumbed.

From "A Message to Rensselaer Commencement Participants and Guests" by RPI VP William Walker:

In light of the continued national presence of the H1N1 influenza virus, we will adopt a slightly modified process as we distribute diplomas at the Rensselaer Commencement ceremony on May 16. In keeping with our tradition, graduates will be invited to the stage to receive their diplomas and be recognized for their achievements, but we will not engage in the customary handshakes that typically accompany the presentation of the diploma.

While recent reports on the status of the virus from the Centers for Disease Control are encouraging, we believe that the circumstances warrant an abundance of caution to protect the health of all who participate in the ceremony.

The message goes on to urge people who are feeling ill to not attend the ceremony.

Three schools in NYC were closed this week after another flare up of the emerging H1N1 flu.

(Thanks, D!)

Same-sex marriage vote today in Assembly, two confirmed cases of H1N1 in Capital Region, Saratoga Springs facing big budget gap, Rachael Ray back at her alma mater

The state Assembly is expected to pass a bill today that would make same-sex marriage legal in New York (no vote is scheduled in the Senate). One of the leading advocates of the bill in the Assembly is Daniel O'Donnell, the first openly gay person to serve in the Assembly -- he's also Rosie's brother. [NYDN] [TU] [NYT]

Former state health commissioner -- and US Surgeon General -- Antonia Novella was arraigned this morning in Albany County court on charges she defrauded the state by taking advantage of her state staffers. [TU]

There are now two confirmed cases of the emerging H1N1 influenza in the greater Capital Region. Officials are saying very little about the case in Saratoga County -- they do say that it's a 12-year-old. The other case is in a Washington County student -- Cambridge Central School officials say they've been disinfecting high traffic areas of the school every night. There have now been 196 confirmed cases of the new strain of H1N1 in New York State -- 38 of them outside NYC. [Post-Star] [Fox23] [NYS DoH]

The Schenectady County DA says investigators have matched DNA from a fork used by Steven Raucci to DNA found on a cigarette used as part of an explosive device. The former Schenectady school district employee was arraigned yesterday -- he's under indictment for 26 felony counts that include terrorism and arson. Raucci's attorney said yesterday that prosecutors have put together "a case full of exaggerations." [TU] [Daily Gazette]

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Officials expect H1N1 flu in every county eventually, first local stimulus project starts, mixed-use development planned for downtown Albany, Dr. Z gets stiffed, the weekend in chase and taser

There were 96 confirmed probable cases of the emerging H1N1 influenza in New York State as of Saturday night, according to the state department of health. Seventeen of the those cases were outside NYC -- and the state health commissioner says they expect that the virus will pop up in every county at some point. Three suspected cases from Schenectady and Albany counties have tested negative -- a suspected case in Saratoga County has gone for testing. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the virus is now "circulating all over" the country. [NYS DoH] [NYT] [Daily Gazette] [Saratogian] [NYT]

The Capital Region's first stimulus-funded project -- the reconstruction of Delaware Ave in Albany -- starts today (map). [TU]

The final tally for spending in the Tedisco-Murphy special election: $3.6 million -- $2.05 million by Murphy and $1.55 million by Tedisco. [TU]

Scott Murphy opened an office in Saratoga Springs Friday (it was Kirsten Gillibrand's old office). Murphy mentioned KG at least six times during his public comments. Apparently the biggest complaint at Murphy's first "Congress on Your Corner" event: Murphy supporters were blocking the nearby drive-up mailbox. [Post-Star] [Saratogian]

A state commission is looking into whether the ghost parking tickets given to some state officials in Albany violated a ban on gifts. [TU]

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Suspected case of H1N1 tests negative, Salt filming continues, acre of garbage revealed, cop crashes through storefront window, bakeries call for cupcake exemption

One of the local suspected cases of the emerging H1N1 influenza has already tested negative. Samples from as many as six suspected cases in the region are still being tested. [TU]

Andrew Cuomo says his office is widening its investigation of kickbacks and other fishy stuff going on with the state pension fund. Andrew Cuomo says "a national network of actors" was involved in defrauding the fund. A handful of people with connections to former state comptroller Alan Hevesi, who ran the fund, have already been indicted. Allegations of wrongdoing at the fund stretch back to at least 2002. [TU] [NYT] [Daily Politics]

A group of politically-appointed attorneys that allegedly maneuvered their way into protected jobs at the state Department of Taxation and Finance have been told by civil service that they need to explain why their jobs shouldn't be revoked. [TU]

The state recently settled a civil rights lawsuit filed by a Schenectady man who said he was fired from his job as a photographer for the state Senate in 2003. The man, who's white, alleged that he had been fired by then-Senate minority leader David Paterson's staff because he wasn't an African-American. [NY Post]

Albany Common Councilwoman Barbara Smith says she wants to know whether it was just a coincidence that a former Albany cop was picked for child porn shortly before he was scheduled to testify about the ghost ticket scandal. [TU]

Filming for Salt continues today through Monday in downtown Albany. Traffic was reportedly all tied up downtown yesterday after filming started again. [TU] [@rmadeo]

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Officials urge calm on emerging flu, CDTA consolidating routes, Albany getting grant for anti-violence program, old Saratoga Winners destroyed, no Shakespeare in the Park this year

New York State has now had 54 confirmed cases of the emerging H1N1 flu -- including three cases outside NYC. Samples from five suspected cases in the greater Capital Region (two each in Schenectady and Washington counties, one in Albany County) have been sent for testing -- officials say they're not sure when results will be back on those samples. David Paterson reiterated his call for people to stay calm and said the state is prepping for a worst-case scenario. [TU] [Saratogian] [Daily Gazette]

Albany city treasurer Betty Barnette now says she will release copies of dismissed parking tickets to the Common Council -- if the council agrees to not share the info with anyone else. Barnette had initially balked at the council's request, which is part of the ghost ticket investigation, citing HIPAA -- even though the medical privacy law doesn't apply to her office. [TU]

CDTA ridership was up 11 percent to record levels during the fiscal year that ended in March. The transit org says it's still short on money, though, and will be changing, consolidating and eliminating routes to save money. [TU] [Daily Gazette]

Police used a state police helicopter, a K-9 unit and a lockdown of schools yesterday during a manhunt in Schenectady. Police were looking for a man they suspect has information about the fatal shooting outside a club this past weekend. They didn't get him. [TU] [Daily Gazette]

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The Scoop

Ever wish you had a smart, savvy friend with the inside line on what's happening around the Capital Region? You know, the kind of stuff that makes your life just a little bit better? Yeah, we do, too. That's why we created All Over Albany. Find out more.

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