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Putnam Health Officials Warn about Increasing Respiratory Illnesses

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Putnam County Health Department officials are warning residents about a triple threat of contagious respiratory illnesses as the colder months arrive. High circulating levels of flu, COVID and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are all on the rise.

“Residents hearing stories on the news about high levels of respiratory illness around the country should be aware that this is also true in Putnam County,” said Health Department epidemiologist, Alison Kaufman, DVM, MPH. “COVID cases remain steady at about 150 per week, and in the last reporting week we saw cases of flu more than double from 39 up to 98 cases.”

As a common respiratory illness, officials say RSV cases usually have seasonal peaks in colder months. However, this year increases started in the summer and levels now are already exceeding the higher numbers typically seen later in RSV season. For healthy adults, symptoms are like the common cold, most often a runny nose and cough. In young children, especially those born preterm or with underlying lung conditions, and older adults and individuals with compromised immune systems, it can cause serious illness and lead to pneumonia.

Flu cases also started earlier than usual and with greater numbers. This mirrors what was seen in the southern hemisphere, which experts use to predict what may happen in the north. So far, predictions of an early and severe flu season are holding true for New York.

“The good news is that there are a number of things we can do to protect ourselves and our families,” said Kathleen Percacciolo, RN, supervising public health nurse. “Flu and COVID vaccines are available through pharmacies, healthcare providers, and here at the Department of Health as well.”

The Health Department has a clinic with flu shots available on Thursday, Dec. 1, at the Health Department office at 1 Geneva Road in Brewster. Appointments must be made and are available from 3 to 4 p.m. Bivalent COVID boosters may be available as well depending on overall demand. For information and to schedule a time, call 845-808-1390, x43230.

Clinics are also held in the Village of Brewster, supported by the NYSDOH Migrant and Seasonal Farm Worker (MSFW) program which ensures eligible residents receive access to vital vaccinations, while helping to address vaccine equity. The next MSFW clinic will be held on Dec. 13, at its regular location, 121 Main Street. For more information on the MSFW program or to check eligibility, call the health department at the same number, 845-808-1390, x 43230.

“If symptoms develop for any respiratory illness, especially if they are severe, contact your health care provider right away,” Percacciolo said. “Your provider can help you with providing a diagnosis and care.”

To relieve any symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control recommends over-the-counter fever reducers and pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. (Aspirin should never be given to children, and it is important to talk to a healthcare provider before giving children any over-the-counter cold medicines because some ingredients are not good for children.) Also drink enough fluids to prevent loss of body fluids and dehydration.

 

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