50% Increase in Lab Confirmed Flu Cases and 21% Increase in Hospitalizations Since Last Week
11,683 New Flu Cases in New York State, 2,221 Hospitalized for Flu in Past Week
Governor's Executive Order Increases Access to Flu Vaccine at New York Pharmacies
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Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the influenza epidemic continued to increase across New York State over the past week, with 11,683 laboratory confirmed influenza cases reported to the New York State Department of Health, and 2,221 New Yorkers hospitalized with confirmed influenza. These numbers are again the highest weekly numbers in both categories since reporting began in 2004 and exceed last week's record high 7,779 confirmed cases and 1,759 hospitalizations.
"Flu season is in full-swing, and as the number of influenza cases and hospitalizations continue to rise at alarming levels, we must take every action to protect ourselves and our loved ones," Governor Cuomo said. "I am urging everyone to get vaccinated and take other necessary steps to stop the spread of this virus in New York."
Last week, the Governor signed an Executive Order allowing pharmacists to administer flu vaccines to children ages 2 to 18, increasing vaccine accessibility for New York children and families as influenza continues to spread across New York. The Executive Order suspends the section of state education law that limits the authority of pharmacists to administer immunizing agents to anyone under age 18 to allow vaccines to be administered to anyone age 2 and up. Parents and guardians are encouraged to call pharmacies ahead of their visit, to ensure they are ready to receive patients in this age group. Parents and guardians with children between the ages of 6 months and 24 months are still encouraged to see their primary care provider for the vaccination.
New York residents who have not yet been vaccinated should contact their local health care provider or pharmacy, or find information about vaccination clinics by contacting their local health department. The HealthMap Vaccine Finder also identifies locations where vaccines can be found in New York State at www.vaccinefinder.org.
Building on the Governor's previously announced actions to address the ongoing flu epidemic, the Department of Health is providing additional support to New York's health care providers and pharmacies on the front lines of the epidemic, including:
- Remaining in constant communication with New York hospitals and standing ready to provide immediate support to facilities if there is a need to expand capacity to meet patient demand.
- Hosting a statewide webinar with pharmacies to assist with the implementation of the Governor's Executive Order and distributing a FAQ for pharmacists about the order.
- Working with health insurers to ensure ongoing access to antiviral medication across New York State.
- Reinforcing influenza prevention and emergency preparedness strategies in conjunction with health care associations for dissemination to all New York State hospitals.
New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, "As the number of influenza cases continues to climb in New York and across the nation, we are doing everything we can to encourage New Yorkers to get vaccinated and to help people experiencing flu symptoms find proper medical care as soon as possible. Under Governor Cuomo's direction, the Department of Health is working to ensure vaccine availability, maintain health system capacity, and assure access to antivirals. Continue to be vigilant this flu season and if you have not yet been vaccinated, it is not too late to do so to protect yourself and those around you."
For the last eight weeks, influenza has been geographically widespread across New York. As of January 27th, 36,814 laboratory confirmed cases of influenza have been reported, 9,377 people have been hospitalized with influenza and there has been one pediatric flu-related death in New York State this season. 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.
According to the CDC, vaccination should continue throughout flu season, as long as influenza viruses are circulating. CDC also recommends that people who are very sick or people who are sick who are at high risk of serious influenza complications be treated early with flu antiviral drugs. Antiviral drugs work best when started within two days of symptoms first appearing. There are no current shortages of flu vaccines and manufacturers report they expect to meet projected seasonal demands. The Department of Health 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.
In addition to getting a flu shot and staying home when sick, it's important 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.