WNYT.com

Flu peak has passed...for now

Posted at: 02/01/2013 5:26 PM
By: Abigail Bleck

ALBANY--New York State isn't afraid to admit that earlier this month, when the flu peaked, it put pressure on the public to get vaccinated.  And it began at the top: Governor Cuomo rolled up his sleeve in mid-January to promote the message that it wasn't too late.

According to the NYS Department of Health, the campaign worked.  Three weeks ago the disease's rates were the highest they'd been in a decade, even more than in 2009 when H1N1 hit.  Three weeks ago thousands dashed to get a last minute shot and now the numbers are down nearly 50%.

"That was the purpose, to get people to pay attention and get their vaccination," explains Dr. Debra Blog, the NYS Epidemiologist.

In addition to innoculation, the media blitz also likely created a hyper-awareness.  New Yorkers thought more about common sense protections like hand-washing, sharing and covering your cough.  All of those simple tasks could have contributed to the decline.

"Your secondary defense is washing hands, staying home when you are sick...trying to keep your family protected," says Dr. Blog.

And then there is the natural ebb and flow of disease.  That, too, could be a reason for the recent drop.

"Flu does just fluctuate.  It doesn't stay here year-round at high levels," adds Dr. Blog.

We are not, however, flu free.  It has been known to peak again.

"It just keeps coming and going when you have kids at home, they're going to school and daycare," complains Tony Pennacchio of Niskayuna.

"The flu is really seriously hard stuff," recalls Tim Kempf, a NYS Worker who has had a flu shot every year since falling victim to the virus a decade ago.

Dr. Blog wants the public to know that it is not too late to receive the flu shot.  And to continue those secondary protections like hand-washing, hydration, getting enough sleep and protecting your cough.  circulating.