With a nasty flu bug laying the city low, the Bronx was reported still standing so far, if even on wobbly feet.
Most hospitals were reporting a brisk trade in sniffling, aching patients.
Local schools, generally a breeding ground for spreading cold bugs, are however reporting minimal absenteeism.
Infectious disease experts at Montefiore are urging Bronxites to get vaccinated against influenza in one of the most severe and longest flu seasons in a decade.
“Our clinics and emergency departments are overwhelmingly busy with a significant increase in both adult and pediatric flu cases,” said Dr. Brian Currie, vice president and medical director for research at Montefiore Medical Center. “We have seen an increase in the influx of flu patients over recent weeks with as many as 40% of people seeking care in our emergency departments testing positive for influenza.”
Dr. Nathan Litman, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, said the number of cases at Montefiore are definitely up, compared to last year’s mild flu season.
“As of Jan. 5, we probably have about 500 to 1000 positive tests,” Litman said. “Although, there maybe more patients that weren’t tested that have been diagnosed with the flu. We should be reporting another number within a week or so.”
To manage the surge of patients, the hospital is extending hours at several of its community urgent care sites.
Bronx East Urgent Care Center at 2300 Westchester Avenue will now be open Monday-Friday – 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday – 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Grand Concourse Urgent Care Center at 2532 Grand Concourse will be open Monday-Friday – 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Family Care Center at 3444 Kossuth Avenue will be open Monday-Friday — 5 to 9 p.m. and every other Saturday beginning Jan. 19 from 8:30 a.m. to 5p.m.
Although the number of confirmed flu cases in the Bronx are up, Litman said the hospital has not experienced any shortage in the flu vaccinations.
Officials at St. Barnabas Hospital also said the number of confirmed cases of the flu at the hospital is up — 25% from last year.
“The hospital has increased its staff in response,” said hospital spokesman Howard Matzner. “And the emergency room is open 24/7 for anyone who needs it.”
But officials at Jacobi Medical Center said the number of reported cases remains the same as last year.
“While it’s definitely true the city is seen as having an upswing in flu cases, that has not been true here at Jacobi,” said spokesman John Doyle. “Our numbers remain relatively stable at this time.”
While the number of confirmed flu cases has definitely increased this year, it seems to have no effect on attendance rates at the borough’s schools.
“We haven’t seen swings in the attendance rate,” said Margie Feinberg, a spokesperson for the NYC Department of Education.
Nearly 20,000 cases of influenza have been reported in New York this season, compared to the 4,404 cases reported last year.
On Saturday, Jan. 12, Gov. Cuomo declared a statewide public health emergency, making it easier for anyone ages six months to 18 years old to get flu shots from pharmacies.
Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said he is asking “that all, not just those who are most vulnerable, but ALL Bronxites get the flu shot.”
Helpful tips to avoid the flu, from Montefiore Medical Center.
-Get vaccinated. Flu season is expected to continue through the spring.
– Wash hands whenever touching surfaces in public places.
– Avoid coughing and sneezing into hands, instead use the crux of your elbow.
– If you are sick, stay home. The risk of transmitting the virus is too risky.
– Those with severe symptoms or with a chronic medical condition should visit the emergency department.
-Those at greatest risk of complications from flu are children under age two, pregnant women and adults over 65.
Kirsten Sanchez can be reach via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 742-3394