Grove Header- White.png
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

County's climbing flu numbers point to greater transmission but possibly higher demand on testing

A young boy lays in bed as an adult places their hand on his forehead and holds a thermometer in his mouth.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
An adult takes the temperature of a sick child laying in bed.

The rate of flu in Onondaga County jumped 73 percent from the week before, and according to state data, more flu patients are filling up hospitals, but the numbers may also signal a shift in the public's healthcare habits.

The state's flu tracker dashboard shows 311 people are sick with the flu for every 100,000 Onondaga County residents. That's up from 180 per 100,000 residents the week before. But last year at this time, the rate was only 35 individuals for every 100,000.

Syracuse University public health professor David Larsen said that massive gap between this year and last may be slightly influenced by this season's testing habits.

“Can some of that be attributed to being more likely to go see the doctor? being more likely to ask for a diagnostic test?" Larsen said.

He said the years of coronavirus is likely pushing more people to get checked out when they feel sick.

"Being more likely to get tested because we want to make sure it's not COVID; We want to make sure it has a diagnosis," he said.

Still, Larsen said the number of flu patients in the hospital across the state shows the illness is a bigger threat this year.

"Despite the complication—there is transmission surging, like there's real risk, and we know that because hospitalizations are so high," Larsen said.

The most current state data shows there were about 27,000 New Yorkers hospitalized with flu. This time last year, hospitalizations were under 300.

Tarryn Mento is an award-winning digital, audio and video journalist with experience reporting from Arizona, Southern California, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. Tarryn produces in-depth and investigative content for WAER while overseeing the station's student reporter experience. She is also an adjunct professor at Syracuse University.