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Flu activity persists in CNY without sharp drop-off like last season

A woman receives a flu shot at a Salvation Army clinic in this undated photo.
A woman receives a flu shot at a Salvation Army clinic in this undated photo.

The month of March usually means flu activity is starting to fade in Central New York. But it appears that’s not the case this year. While cases did peak last month, health officials are saying this flu season is similar to those seen before the pandemic. Onondaga County Health Department Medical Director Doctor James Alexander says that means flu activity is lingering.

“This year, the peak seemed to last longer than it did last year," Alexander said. "We still have significant numbers of flu cases, but if you look at pre-pandemic levels, it’s not really all that different at this point.”

Alexander says by contrast, last year’s season peaked early and ended quickly, with over 100,000 cases recorded in the first two weeks of December 2022. Cases dropped off rapidly by early January, though the CDC extended the tracking period because of abnormally high case numbers into the summer. But this year, federal data show we haven’t seen the same dramatic drop-off. Cases have remained steady at around 20,000 a week nationwide since January. And while cases of Influenza-A have fallen since January, Influenza-B cases have risen in the same period. Alexander says this is normal for the flu season.

“Influenza A is the one that tends to come early, it’s the one that tends to come in much higher numbers," Alexander said. "Influenza-B tends to come later in the season. And what we’re seeing now is our Influenza-A numbers are pretty stable, but the Influenza-B numbers are increasing, so the overall numbers still look like they’re remaining pretty high.”

That means flu activity is likely to persist. Data show last season saw at least one-thousand cases per week from February to May. Cases may be trending down, but they still remain high.

Matt Salerno is an undergraduate studying Broadcast and Digital Journalism at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, expected to graduate in May 2025. As a contributor, he helps produce content for WAER. In his free time, Matt plays and listens to jazz and bebop music and climbs at the Barnes Center's rock climbing gym.