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Those 65-And-Older Getting Hardest Hit This Flu Season

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Rochester: Those 65-And-Older Getting Hardest Hit This Flu Season
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Eight people in Monroe County have now died as a result of contracting the influenza virus. Elsewhere in the nation, experts are noting an unusual strength in this year's strain of the flu.

There are two things that can make you sick: a germ, and a virus. Germs live on their own. But viruses alter your body's DNA, and multiply.

"The viruses scatter, besieging more cells. The infection spreads as the viruses increase in number, at a staggering rate."

Just as the flu takes over our bodies, this year it's also spreading rapidly through our population.

"For whatever reason, the strain that's circulating this year seems to be hitting hard, particularly older people," said John Ricci, Monroe County Health Department.

Here in Monroe County, the health department reports eight flu-related deaths so far, and we're barely halfway through flu season.

"Flu can linger as long as April or May. We're only in January," Ricci said.

Monroe County's flu season data has mirrored the national data so far. In both data sets, the flu began early and reached a peak the week before Christmas. We've also seen an early dip in new cases, centered around the New Year.

But a local graph tells the story: out of all age groups, those 65-and-older are suffering from the flu at more than twice the rate of anyone else.

Local elder care facilities have taken notice.

"We've had a few cases, but nothing that has put us on a high alert," said Renee Barnes, Episcopal SeniorLife.

Still, staff and visitors are asked to wash hands regularly, and, in extreme situations, residents would be quarantined.

"We pay close attention to any symptoms, anyone who is symptomatic, and are really more on the cautious side. Communication is definitely the biggest thing, communicating out with families. If they're not feeling well, not to come in and visit," Barnes said.

Health officials maintain a flu shot is still the surest prevention.

"People have it on their radar screen in the fall to get a flu shot. Here we are in early January, but surprisingly it's really not too late to still benefit from getting a flu shot," Ricci said.

Contact the Monroe County Health Department for flu clinic information at (585) 753-5600.

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