HUDSON COUNTY -- According to a report from the Center for Disease Control, this year flu season started about five weeks earlier than usual, hospitalizing 2,257 people and causing the deaths of 18 children.
Although no fatalities have yet been recorded in Hudson County, local hospitals have begun to see a surge in flu cases in the past few weeks, said Dr. Susan Walsh, the accountable care medical director at Jersey City Medical Center.
Walsh, a former deputy commissioner at the New Jersey Department of Health, stressed that a flu vaccine is the most effective way to prevent the disease, but that other precautions should be taken as well.
“The most important thing is to wash your hands as much as possible,” she said. Walsh also said that coughs and sneezes should be covered, and that people should avoid using others’ electronics and phones.
Influenza, more commonly known as the flu, is usually most common in the winter months.
On average, three out of four people who experience flu symptoms have not been vaccinated, according to John Brownstein, an epidemiologist and assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital Boston.
Walsh said people often mistake the flu for the common cold, a misconception which could potentially cost them dearly.
“The defining difference is that a severe headache is almost always more indicative of the flu than with the common cold,” she said.
The New Jersey Dept. of Health is operating a website dedicated to flu awareness and prevention, at www.nj.gov/health/flu. On the website, there is a link for finding the closest flu shot provider nearest to you. Some may be able to provide the shot at a low cost or free.