Winter started late this year and so did the flu season, according to Megan Helmecke, infection preventionist with Albany Medical Center. The late season flu hitting the Capital Region is more unusual in its timing than its severity, she said.
“We had a high level of confirmed flu cases in the last weeks and [it’s] starting to decrease in the last couple of days,” she said.
The late uptick in flu cases has been reported statewide.
“We really didn’t see flu cases pick up until early February,” Helmecke said. “Seems to be we peaked in mid-March, which seems to be the same that New York state is reporting.”
The late season flu is being felt in area schools, too.
“Like the snow we saw yesterday [that] we usually see in February, it’s just hitting later than usual,” Robert Hanlon, a spokesman for the Scotia-Glenville School District, said Tuesday referring to Monday’s snowfall.
Similar to what’s being reported at local hospitals, the district is starting to see relief.
“We usually see this level in mid February — it kind of peaked last week and now we’re seeing it drop back off,” he said.
Hanlon said that this peak is nothing like the situation they saw during the swine flu outbreak.
“What we ran into with swine flu is half of a classroom would be out. It’s kind of spread out all over the place now,” Hanlon said. “Schools aren’t even required to keep track of their numbers — the only time schools were required to track numbers were [during] the swine flu.”
The outbreak at Scotia-Glenville has not required the district to do any special cleaning.
“It wasn’t across the board so we didn’t do anything more than we normally do, nothing intense, nothing with special chemicals or anything like that,” he said.
“With the flu you have to just burn it through you and recover.”
This late season flu is a strain that is protected in the vaccine, according to Helmecke, so the spread should be controlled.
“People don’t usually think of the flu in April but with the late onset, the peak is at a different time period,” she said.
At Nathan Littauer Hospital had only had nine confirmed cases of flu this season but they have heard about a late-season outbreak in the community.
“I had heard of some reports that our Lexington Community Houses had an outbreak of the flu,” said Melissa Bown, employee health/infection prevention manager at Littauer. The Lexington houses are state-run group residences for people with disabilities.
According to the state reports, the 2015 peak for the flu occurred about the first week in January for hospitalized patients and the last week of January for out patients. This year the peak was the third week in March for the state, said Bown.
“I would say we would start to see it die down overall in the next week or two and it’ll continue down,” she said.
“We should get another couple weeks of it and then we should be in the clear.”