Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently announced the total number of flu cases in New York State has eclipsed the record number of seasonal cases since the New York State Department of Health began tracking flu cases during the 1998-99 season.
The latest influenza surveillance report for the week ending February 22 shows 131,604 laboratory-confirmed cases so far this season. Previously, the most lab-confirmed influenza cases reported during a single flu season was 128,892 in 2017-18. While this year's flu season has reached historic levels, last week, the number of laboratory-confirmed flu cases decreased 26 percent and hospitalizations decreased 13 percent.
"While I am encouraged to see yet another decrease in the number of flu cases across the state, this year's flu season has been grueling and New Yorkers must remain vigilant against the spread of the virus," Governor Cuomo said. "If you haven't already been vaccinated it's not too late. I urge you to get a vaccine and to please stay home if you are sick to avoid spreading the illness."
Although seasonal flu activity continues to be widespread across New York State, for the second consecutive week, the number of laboratory-confirmed influenza cases and hospitalizations decreased. Last week, 10,520 laboratory confirmed cases of influenza have been reported and 1,454 people have been hospitalized with influenza. As indicated in the influenza surveillance report, there were three new influenza-associated pediatric deaths, for a total of nine influenza-associated pediatric deaths this season. Two of the new three influenza-associated pediatric deaths occurred in NYC while the other was a resident of the North Country region. Flu season occurs primarily from October through May.
Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, "Even though this year's flu season has been record-setting, we have seen a decline in the number of laboratory-confirmed cases and the number of hospitalizations for the second consecutive week. While these numbers are encouraging, unfortunately, we endured three tragic flu-associated pediatric deaths this week. I urge New Yorkers to remain vigilant and take the appropriate steps to help stop the spread of the flu."
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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conduct studies each year to determine how effective each year's vaccine is at protecting against influenza. CDC preliminary vaccine effectiveness estimates indicate that the 2019-20 flu vaccine is providing substantial protective benefit this season. Flu vaccines are reducing doctor visits associated with flu illness by 45 percent overall and 55 percent in children. This is consistent with estimates of flu vaccine effectiveness from previous seasons that ranged from 40 - 60 percent.
The State Health Department recommends and urges that everyone six months of age or older receive an influenza vaccination. It is especially important that children six months - eight years-old who have gotten less than two doses of flu vaccine in their lifetime receive two doses of flu vaccine spaced at least four weeks apart for best protection against flu this season. In addition, everyday preventative actions can help stop the spread of flu and other respiratory viruses:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
For additional information about influenza in New York State, visit the Department of Health web page.