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Influenza season extended, vaccine still available in Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence counties

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WATERTOWN — Instead of having its own season, influenza may just stick around all year.

It already kind of does.

While seasonal influenza typically arrives in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties in the early fall and peaks in February or March, local public health agencies have reported that while cases are starting to dwindle, new laboratory-confirmed cases still trickle in.

“It’s still in the area, and a good idea to get vaccinated,” said Lorraine B. Kourofsky, St. Lawrence County Public Health director. “It’s not too late.”

There have been 347 laboratory-confirmed cases in St. Lawrence County since the fall. Influenza remains widespread throughout the state, and new cases continue to occur throughout the north country.

While there’s still time to get the vaccine, it takes about two weeks to obtain immunity. Vaccines will be gone June 30, the date they expire.

Soon after that date, the vaccine for the following influenza season will be developed. But when the vaccines expire, the virus doesn’t, and people could continue to contract the flu.

“There’s been some conversation in the last year that flu will become a year-round disease,” said Marcia M. Ashline, Lewis County supervising public health nurse. “We could see ourselves vaccinating year-round.”

Mrs. Ashline said no one can predict what type of flu — Influenza A or Influenza B — nor what specific strains will occur in the next flu season. Lewis County has had only 73 laboratory-confirmed cases in this influenza season, which both is lower and occurred later than in the 2012-13 season.

“We didn’t start seeing (cases) until January, and the year before it was early,” Mrs. Ashline said. “You just never know.”

Adjacent to Lewis County, Jefferson County has had 214 laboratory-confirmed influenza cases since the fall. Jefferson County health planner Faith E. Lustik said type A flu occurred earlier in the season, and now more cases are type B.

Last season, Jefferson County alone had more than 1,000 laboratory-confirmed cases.

Getting vaccinated, even late in a “typical” influenza season, is better than not getting vaccinated at all, she said, and risking complications or even death. Jefferson County Public Health Service reported two influenza-related deaths earlier in the season, as did St. Lawrence County. Ms. Kourofsky said one death was a St. Lawrence County resident, while the other death was a Franklin County resident who was in the county at the time of his or her death.

For more information, including a list of immunization clinics, call 386-2325 for St. Lawrence County Public Health, 786-3770 for Jefferson County Public Health or 376-5453 for Lewis County Public Health.

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