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Health department urges those sick to get treatment, after 7 flu-related deaths


The Onondaga County Health Department is urging anyone who thinks they have the flu to call their doctor and get treated. Health officials hope getting the word out about the severity of this year's deadly flu strain can ultimately contain it.

Usually the health department updates flu numbers on its website each Thursday, but this week officials sent a special news release on Tuesday, noting there has been a total of 550 flu cases reported so far, and seven flu-related deaths.

Health Commissioner Indu Gupta says getting more information out is a reflection of the urgency the department feels when it comes to this years flu strain, which has been immune to the flu shot for some patients.

"Information is empowerment," Gupta said. "So our job is to make sure information gets out, so people can seek medical care if they need to."

The deaths from this flu strain have all involved elderly people with underlying health conditions. Gupta emphasizes that it’s very important that people, especially the most vulnerable to this year’s H3N2 strain, get medical attention at the first signs of a fever or trouble breathing. She says doctors can treat patients with antiviral drugs that can make a difference.

"Severity can be less. Your hospital stay could be less. And your total duration of illness at least by one day -- one day seems like a short time, but when you're sick, especially when you're very frail, that one day adds up," Gupta said.

She also says even if the antiviral medications are started beyond the first couple of days of an illness, they can still make the illness milder and prevent serious flu complications.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.