OSSINING, N.Y. – As Ossining residents flood the Open Door Family Medical Center because of the flu, local officials said the number of cases has reached its highest point in years.
Last winter, the Open Door Family Medical Center issued 76 flu tests and two were positive for flu. This year, the center gave 488 tests and 153 were positive, according to Open Door records. As of January, clinicians had administered 6,965 flu shots to Ossining residents.
While the numbers have skyrocketed this year, Open Door’s Chief Medical Officer Daren Wu said there is no indication of a flu outbreak or sudden surge of flu.
“Many times we don’t do tests because the treatment is initiated in the first 48 hours after symptoms, and we might not necessarily have that much time left to give it. The attention from the national media could’ve also convinced more flu cases to come in,” Wu said. “What is interesting is that roughly a third of cases tested this year came back positive. That’s astronomical.”
The flu season has been much stronger this year than last year in terms of patient visits, but Wu said it doesn’t compare with the H1N1 outbreak of 2010.
“That year was crazy for us, and we haven’t approached those numbers,” he said. “The flu season ebbs and flows, and there isn’t really a typical or average year. But needless to say, we’re running very busy right now.”
But people are not just coming in with the flu, Open Door’s President/CEO Lindsay Farrell said. At the end of 2011, Open Door centers across Westchester received an average of 800 patient visits per day. At the end of 2012, an average of more than 875 visitors came through per day.
“It’s been very busy. December was one of our busiest months we’ve had in a long time,” Farrell said. “It’s not only the flu, but there are all kinds of upper-respiratory cases. It’s been a lot more than usual.”
Farrell encouraged residents to get the flu vaccine as soon as possible.
“If you have the vaccine you’re less likely to get the flu. It doesn’t guarantee that you won’t get it, but it is the best thing we can do to protect ourselves,” she said. “The more people who are immunized, the better it is for everybody.”
Open Door has plenty of vaccine left, Farrell said. The vaccine does not cause the flu or make people ill, she said.
“One of the big myths is that getting the shot makes you sick,” she said. “That’s not the case at all. Every year they make their best estimates about which strain will be the most prevalent. This year was a really good match with an effectiveness of 60 [percent] to 70 percent, which is very high. So the best thing people can do for themselves and their families is get the shot.”