7% Increase in Lab Confirmed Flu Cases Statewide
3% Decrease in Hospitalizations Since Last Week; First Decline since Influenza was Declared Prevalent in December
Governor Cuomo's Actions Encourage Flu Vaccination Program for Children; New CDC Report Shows 59% Vaccine Effectiveness for Children Under 8 Years Old
7,577 New Yorkers Ages 2-18 Vaccinated at Pharmacies Since Governor's January 25 Executive Order
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today called for continued vigilance to prevent the spread of influenza and again urged all New Yorkers to get vaccinated against this potentially deadly disease. Last week, 16,804 laboratory confirmed influenza cases were reported to the New York State Department of Health, again the highest weekly number since reporting began in 2004. The number of weekly hospitalizations decreased for the first time since influenza was declared prevalent in December, with 2,409 New Yorkers hospitalized for lab confirmed influenza.
"As the number of flu cases continues to rise, I urge all New Yorkers to take every action to protect themselves and their loved ones from this epidemic," Governor Cuomo said. "We are doing everything we can to ensure the availability and affordability of the flu vaccine, and I encourage everyone to stay vigilant and get vaccinated."
Earlier this week, Governor Cuomo announced a 30-day budget amendment to increase convenience and vaccine accessibility by amending state education law allowing pharmacists to administer flu vaccines to children ages 2 to 18, thereby codifying Executive Order 176. As a result, this legislation will encourage pharmacies to enroll in the New York State Vaccines for Children Program, which provides vaccines to children and individuals regardless of their ability to pay. The Governor also called on individual physicians to enroll in the Vaccines for Children program, if not already enrolled.
Last week, Governor Cuomo directed the New York State Department of Health to authorize enhanced reimbursement for counties statewide to help fund expanded efforts to promote and increase access to flu vaccines statewide. This action builds on New York State's ongoing efforts to combat the flu epidemic.
The Department of Health's website links to each local health department providing the public a one-stop-shop approach to individual counties' expanded efforts. Additionally, the HealthMap Vaccine Finder also identifies locations where vaccines can be found at other locations in New York State at http://www.vaccinefinder.org/.
According to a report issued today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is estimating 36 percent vaccine effectiveness against all strains of influenza this flu season. The report also shows that the flu vaccine is 59 percent effective among children aged 6 months to 8 years of age, the population targeted by Governor Cuomo's recent actions to expand vaccine access and availability. According to the CDC, vaccination should continue throughout flu season, as long as influenza viruses are circulating. Flu vaccine remains the best way to prevent illness and influenza complications, including those that can lead to hospitalization. Even when flu vaccine does not prevent illness, it still lessens the severity and shortens the duration of the flu.
New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, "Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, New York State continues to take aggressive long-term actions to combat the flu both this year and in future flu seasons. Flu season is not over yet and it's not too late to get vaccinated. Statistics show that the vaccine is especially effective for young children, so I urge you to get your children vaccinated today; it could save their lives."
For the last 10 weeks, influenza has been geographically widespread across New York. As of February 10th, 69,365 laboratory confirmed cases of influenza have been reported and 14,354 people have been hospitalized with influenza in New York State this season. There have been 5 pediatric influenza deaths this flu season and 11,036 children under the age of five have been diagnosed with lab confirmed influenza and 926 have been hospitalized.
During last year's flu season, there were 12,912 flu-related hospitalizations and eight pediatric deaths in New York. Over the last four years, there have been a total of 25 pediatric flu deaths in New York State and an average of 10,571 flu-related hospitalizations a year.
CDC also recommends that people who are very sick or people who are at high risk of serious influenza complications be treated early with flu antiviral drugs. Antiviral drugs work best when started within 48 hours of symptoms first appearing. The Department is aware of some localized shortages of specific formulations of influenza antivirals, particularly the oseltamivir oral suspension and generic oseltamivir capsules. The Department is working with providers to make sure they are aware of all potential sources of these medications. Additionally, the Department is also closely monitoring vaccine supply, but still encourages residents to call ahead to providers.
In addition to getting a flu shot and staying home when sick, it's essential to practice good hand-hygiene:
- Unlike some viruses, influenza is easily killed by soap and hot water.
- Wash your hands often with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds to protect yourself from germs and avoid spreading them to others.
- Carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to use when soap and water are not available. Choose a product with at least 60 percent alcohol.
- Do not cough or sneeze into your hands. Instead, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. People with the flu are infectious for up to 7 days after symptoms begin.
For more information about the flu, visit: www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/influenza/seasonal