In what is being described by health officials as the most severe flu season in more than a decade, Suffolk will consider expanding its data collection of influenza related deaths to include adults. Currently, the County’s Department of Health Services only tracks flu associated deaths for children aged 18 and younger. Under the bill sponsored by Majority Leader Kara Hahn, the County will for the first time collect data on all deaths resulting from the influenza virus or its subsequent complications. Additionally, if approved, the statistics collected will be reported monthly during the flu season, and will become the basis of an annual report on that year’s flu season due to the Legislature each May.
“Our understanding of annual influenza outbreaks is limited by the limited data being collected by national, state and local health officials,” said Legislator Hahn. “When the statistics used to monitor this epidemic excludes nearly 79 percent of Suffolk County’s population it is difficult to get a clear picture of its impact on public health. I know having complete information will aid County officials who need to make reasonable predictions based upon available datasets.”
The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) relies upon estimated seasonal influenza-associated deaths “in people for whom seasonal influenza infection was likely a contributor to the cause of death, but not necessarily the primary cause of death.” However, the CDC readily admits that it “does not know exactly how many people die from seasonal flu each year.” Legislator Hahn believes that if her proposal is successful, County health officials will have concreate localized numbers to analyze, which will help foster an informed understanding of the virus and its impact on Suffolk residents.
“Influenza is a serious public health threat, and should not be taken lightly,” said Legislator William Spencer. “As a physician, I remain open to all resources to assess and manage the severity of the flu outbreak. I believe that being proactive is imperative for protecting the health of the public for all future flu seasons.”
Introduction Resolution 1136-2018, the bill directing the Department of Health Services to collect and report additional influenza data, will be up for consideration at the Legislature’s Health committee on Thursday, March 1st and may be considered by the full Legislature during its March 6, 2018 meeting in Riverhead.