Health officials: Local flu season average

The number of flu cases statewide this season already is double the number reported in the entire previous season, but health and school officials say reports of illness locally are no worse than most flu seasons.

According to the state Department of Health, the week ending Dec. 22 had a widespread activity level for influenza, with confirmed cases in all 57 counties and New York City.

A total of 10,721 cases of the flu had been reported this season as of Dec. 22, the state Health Department said.

During the 2011-12 flu season, there were 4,404 reported cases statewide, the department reported. As of Dec. 24, 2011, there were between 200 and 300 reported flu cases.

According to state data, the flu season only became widespread between Nov.17 and Dec. 1, when it went from regional to statewide.

On average, 5 percent to 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu, with more than 200,000 being hospitalized from complications relating to it, according to the state Department of Health. About 23,500 people in the United States die every year from seasonal flu.

Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, fatigue, and in some cases, vomiting and diarrhea.

Local health agencies say this year’s flu season is no different from previous years.

“We are not seeing any significant changes,” said Denise Federick, director for the Fulton County Department of Public Health, referring to any changes to the virus.

Jill Barra, Hamilton County Public Health nurse, did not have the number of flu cases in her county, but she said 95 percent of the cases are the type known as influenza A (H1).

She said there are several variations of the virus, and health experts try to keep up with them.

“They try and figure out what would be circulating,” Barra said.

Schools have been affected by the flu season.

On Dec. 14, the Galway Central School District had to close after a large number of students there reported they were sick with flu-like symptoms.

The building was disinfected and sanitized and reopened on the next school day.

A representative from the Galway school district was unavailable for comment.

Other schools in the area have reported some children being sick but no major problems.

Debbie Grimshaw, superintendent for the Canajoharie Central School District, said the school had seen a slight increase in absenteeism after the holiday break, based on reports from faculty. She said it was not at a rate that would cause any problems.

“It’s not raising any alarms,” Grimshaw said.

The Northville Central School District reported attendance was normal for the school, and the school was sanitized over the Christmas break as part of maintenance.

Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School District Superintendent Dan Russom said the district saw a slight increase in illnesses before the holiday break, but it was not high enough to raise alarm.

Russom said it would take an absentee rate of around 25 percent before the school would consider closing.