Influenza-like activity in New Jersey has started spiking.

Last month, only sporadic low levels of flu had been reported. But according to data from the state Health Department, that is changing.

Health officials confirm many counties in South, Central and Northeast Jersey are reporting moderate influenza-like activity.

“We have seen several patients in the hospital with influenza, so they’ve had a bit more serious illnesses,” said
Dr. Ted Louie, an infectious disease expert with the Medical Society of New Jersey, affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Saint Peter’s University Hospital and Highland Park Medical.

He noted those with compromised immune systems are especially prone to develop complications that are potentially dangerous.

“And if you have a cardiac condition or diabetes, then you may get the flu and on top of that, a bacterial pneumonia superimposed on that,” said Louie.

“Even if you do OK with the flu, you may get complications and that can land you in the hospital.”

Dr. Dheeraj Taranath, regional director for MedExpress, an urgent care chain in New Jersey and 17 other states, said higher rates of influenza and other illnesses are definitely showing up in the Garden state.

He said in addition to influenza, patients are coming in with “upper respiratory infection, sinus infections, bronchitis, pneumonia — these all go hand and hand with influenza-type symptoms.”

According to Louis, flu almost always brings fever, runny nose, sore throat and muscle aches. Colds have less severe symptoms and no fever.

This kind of influenza activity when it’s not even winter yet is not typical, Louie said. But there’s no way to know if the spike up will continue or drop.

“It’s unpredictable, but I would think probably this will be a bad flu season [...] We’ll have to wait and see."

He said getting vaccinated is important.

“It’s recommended that everybody over the age of 6 months gets a flu shot, so certainly if you haven’t been vaccinated by this time, I would recommend it.”

Louie pointed out that everybody, if they’re getting sick, has a responsibility to stay home because if you try to push through and go to work when you’ve got a cough and a fever that will spread whatever illness you’ve got.

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