WANTAGH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – The flu bug is hitting Long Island hard this year and the number of reported cases since October have more than tripled over last year.

As TV 10/55’s Richard Rose reported, health officials say a strain of the virus has mutated, making it immune to the flu vaccine.

Dr. Victor Politi, the head of Nassau University Medical Center, said they have already seen a slight uptick in flu cases inside their emergency room and are taking special precautions to keep flu patients from spreading the virus.

“What we’re doing in the emergency room is to segregate patients when they come in,” he said.

Hospital staff said there are three more potential flu patients being monitored by specialists.

Countywide, there has been more than a slight uptick for all strains of the flu virus. The Nassau Health Department says there have been 232 cases this year compared to 66 cases last year– a 250 percent increase.

Diane Stephin’s 9-year-old daughter didn’t get a flu shot, rather a flu mist. And she is not alone.

As first reported Tuesday, more than 50 students at Lee Road Elementary School in Wantagh have flu symptoms.  County health officials are calling it a “flu cluster.” Doctors say one strain of the virus has mutated, making the flu vaccine fifty percent less effective.

“I’m a little concerned because my granddaughter attends the school and if she comes down with the flu, it may infect the whole household,” James Saladino said.

School officials say they have thoroughly scrubbed the building, but Saladino says the school should take Christmas break early.

“Close it early, give the kids a break and maybe we can stop this flu epidemic,” he said.

Health experts say getting a flu vaccine still offers the best protection, along with constantly washing your hands.

The Centers for Disease Control says it is seeing a significant flu outbreak across the country as well.

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