Governor Andrew Cuomo has recently advised all New Yorkers to get a flu shot, as new numbers recently released show sharp inclines in laboratory confirmed cases of influenza (the flu).
The Governor also directed the Department of Health to work with state agencies and authorities on ways to encourage flu vaccinations among state workers and their families. The flu season usually begins in October and runs through May.
Find Locations Where You Can Get the Flu Shot Near You Here
“As flu cases continue to climb across the state, I am urging New Yorkers to protect themselves and their loved ones against this dangerous virus by getting vaccinated,” Governor Cuomo said. “The flu shot is still the best way to stay healthy during this season, and New Yorkers should take advantage of the expanded access to the flu vaccine and help prevent the spread of this virus.”
The latest increase in flu cases comes after State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker last week declared influenza prevalent in New York State. The announcement put into effect a regulation requiring that healthcare workers who are not vaccinated against influenza wear surgical or procedure masks in areas where patients are typically present.
Last week, 1,839 laboratory confirmed influenza cases were reported to the State Department of Health, a 60 percent increase in cases from the week prior. There have been 4,989 laboratory confirmed cases reported to the Department this flu season. The number of weekly hospitalizations has also increased, with 328 New Yorkers hospitalized for lab confirmed influenza, up 32 percent from the previous report. So far this season in New York, 1,040 flu-related hospitalizations and one flu-associated pediatric death have been reported.
New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, “Vaccination is the best way to protect against flu and is especially important for the most vulnerable to influenza, such as the elderly and very young. I encourage all New Yorkers older than six months to get their influenza shot as soon as possible.”
Influenza activity data is available on the New York State Flu Tracker. The Flu Tracker is a dashboard on the New York State Health Connector that provides timely information about local, regional and statewide influenza activity.
The State Health Department recommends that everyone six months of age or older receive an influenza vaccination. The vaccine is especially important for people at high risk for complications from influenza, including children under age 2, pregnant women and adults over age 65. People with pre-existing conditions, such as asthma and heart disease, are also at greater risk, as are individuals with weakened immune systems due to disease or medications such as chemotherapy or chronic steroid use. Since influenza virus can spread easily by coughing or sneezing, it is also important that family members and people in regular contact with high risk individuals get an influenza vaccine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conduct studies each year to determine how effective that year’s vaccine is at protecting against influenza-related illness. While the effectiveness can vary from year to year, studies show that the vaccine remains the most effective way to protect public health. Additionally, studies show that the influenza vaccine can make the illness milder in certain cases where an individual was vaccinated but still contracted influenza.
Most health insurance plans cover influenza vaccines. Individuals and families without health insurance should check with their county health department to find out if local clinics will be held to provide free or low-cost vaccinations. Children two years of age and older and adults may also be able to get their influenza vaccine at a local pharmacy.
For additional information about influenza, including how it is monitored in New York State, visit the Department of Health web page.