The county health department reported there have been 254 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza in Steuben County this flu season.

Lab-confirmed cases are just a percentage of the total infections in the county.

Steuben County Health Department Director Darlene Smith said these cases of influenza are reflective of a flu season that is more severe than in years past.

“It’s the severity of it,” she said. “The prevalence of the flu this year, as well as those who get it are generally sicker than they were last year.

“In other words, leading to hospitalization, and sometimes it turns into pneumonia, whereas other years, the severity of the symptoms are not quite as strong as they are this year.”

Although the Centers for Disease Control says the number of flu cases nationwide is starting to level off, Smith said residents should still be mindful of the virus and take precautions to prevent its spread.

“The best way to prevent it are two things: the flu vaccine, and washing hands,” she said.

“The vaccine is not 100 percent. Individuals can still get the flu even after receiving the vaccine. However, research has proven that generally speaking, their symptoms will be less severe, and hospitalizations certainly occur at a much reduced rate of frequency for those who do get the flu vaccine.”

And if someone does come down with the flu, Smith said the best bet is to stay home away from others.

“Staying home and away from exposing other people will certainly help with the spread of it,” she said.

Smith said residents who get the flu should also consult with their doctors to try and prevent the flu from turning into pneumonia, because inactivity can lead to the development of pneumonia for those with the flu, she said.

For more information, contact Steuben County Public Health at 664-2438.