State Health Commissioner declares influenza is prevalent in New York State

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ALBANY, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker declared on Thursday, December 5th that influenza is now prevalent in New York State. There have been laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu in 42 counties throughout New York State and in all boroughs of New York City. 

With the virus being prevalent throughout the state, a regulation requiring that healthcare workers who are not vaccinated against influenza wear surgical or procedure masks in areas where patients are typically present is now in effect. 

“Getting vaccinated remains the best way for all New Yorkers to protect against the flu, and it is vital for caregivers who come in contact with patients to get vaccinated to help prevent the spread of flu. The requirement that unvaccinated healthcare personnel wear a mask is intended to protect patients from getting the flu because healthcare workers can pose a risk to vulnerable patients by transmitting influenza, which often causes serious complications.”

– Dr. Howard Zucker

So far this season in New York, 691 flu-related hospitalizations and one flu-associated pediatric death have been reported. Over the last three seasons, there have been 20 flu-associated pediatric deaths in New York and an average of 18,352 flu-related hospitalizations each flu season.

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 preexisting 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.

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.

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. Click here for a video demonstration of how you can use New York State Flu Tracker.

For additional information about influenza, including how it is monitored in New York State, visit the Department of Health web page at: http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/influenza/seasonal/.

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