Flu cases double at Bellevue, Doctors say: Just get the shot

Bellevue Hospital offers the flu vaccine free to New Yorkers without insurance or who are under-insured throughout flu season.

By Sabina Mollot

Over 5,000 New Yorkers have become bedridden with the flu this season, according to Senator Charles Schumer.

Calling it a “historic outbreak,” on Monday, Schumer called on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to designate a special “domestic flu surveillance team” for the state, which he believes will help “augment the work of inundated hospitals and budget-strained localities.”

Locally, the increase is being seen at Bellevue Hospital, where doctors have already seen 200 patients with confirmed cases of the flu, up from 100 for the entire season last year. Out of the 200 positive tests, 60 people were admitted to the hospital, while the rest went home. In a typical season, 100 people come in with the flu and 20-40 get admitted.

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NYU Langone doctor: Flu is still bigger threat than Enterovirus D68

Michael Phillips, MD, director of infection control and prevention at NYU Langone

Michael Phillips, MD, director of infection control and prevention at NYU Langone

By Sabina Mollot

Amidst the spreading of a serious respiratory illness in 18 states so far, including New York, last week, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer urged the Center for Disease Control to provide more resources to local hospitals in the face of Enterovirus D68 as well as resources to help spread awareness about it.

Twelve children have contracted the virus in New York State so far, including one resident of New York City. There have been a total of 153 confirmed cases of the virus in 18 states between August and September 18 and the virus is suspected of causing the death of a New Jersey pre-schooler. Part of the problem, Schumer noted is that at first, the virus may appear to be a cold which can then lead to more serious symptoms that can lead to hospitalization.

However, this week, the director of infection control and prevention at NYU Langone, Michael Phillips, MD, said that while New Yorkers should always be vigilant about any threat to their health, statistically, catching the flu is still a far bigger risk than D68.

“What captures people’s attention is when there’s a new, novel infection out there, people wonder, ‘Am I and my loved ones at risk?’,” he said.

Phillips added that while conditions like D68 and even ebola are currently a cause for concern for healthcare practitioners, for the community, the hospital’s main goal is prevention the spread of the flu.

“I think the flu for sure is a constant and has a devastating toll in the community,” he said. “We have vaccines and they’re underutilized. We had an unpredictable season last year and one of the things you can say about the flu each year is that it’s unpredictable.”

Last year, what was unusual in flu patterns was that people were coming down with it late in the season, even April, as much as they were around the holidays. Then, there was an outbreak of measles in the spring, and, noted Phillips, there’s always a risk of transmission when people aren’t getting immunized.

While some people are wary of getting the flu shot, Phillips is a staunch believer in its effectiveness.

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