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Health officials see cases of B strain influenza earlier than usual in the flu season

Posted at 5:42 PM, Jan 02, 2020

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Health officials say they are re seeing more of the influenza B strain earlier this flu season. Strain A usually occurs around late December and early January.

"It is unusual. We are seeing the same thing here at our facilities where many of our patients admitted with influenza this year have actually had influenza B," said Dr. Kevin Shiley, Medical Director of Infection Prevention & Control at Mercy Hospital of Buffalo.

Dr. Shiley said they normally wouldn't see this strain until the end of the season, usually around March and April.

Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said this doesn't change what you need to do protect yourself and your family from the flu.

"It's still important for everybody to get immunized. The current influenza vaccines available in the community now have both coverage for two strains of influenza A, and two strains of influenza B," said Dr. Burstein.

And Dr. Shiley said strain B is not substantially different than strain A.

"Some people historically have thought it's a little bit less severe than influenza A," he said. "But I can tell you having personally taken care of many patients [with] both influenza A and influenza B, I've seen really bad cases in both instances."

The CDC estimates there's been between 4.5 to 6.5 million flu illnesses across the U.S so far this flu season.

According to the New York State Department of Health the flu is widespread for the fourth consecutive week. Dr. Burstein said Erie County has seen more influenza cases this year than in years past.

Health officials say to protect yourself from the respiratory virus, make sure to always clean your hands, especially after touching things like door knobs or counter tops.

Try to stay at least six feet away from someone who is coughing or sneezing, and if you are sick stay home.