Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today advised New Yorkers that State and local health departments and healthcare partners are remaining vigilant and have a high state of readiness to protect New Yorkers from novel coronavirus. He also advised New Yorkers of the ongoing risk for seasonal flu and urges them to take recommended precautions to prevent both. As of today, the New York State Department of Health has sent samples from 11 individuals to the CDC for testing for the novel coronavirus, with seven found to be negative and four more still pending. There are no confirmed cases in New York State.
Regarding flu however, the number of laboratory-confirmed flu cases and hospitalizations has increased every week since flu season began in October. Flu season occurs primarily from October through May, and the 2019-20 season has yet to peak.
"New York does not have one single confirmed case of the novel coronavirus, but we are taking every necessary precaution to protect against its spread into our state. We have been here before, and I want to remind New Yorkers that it is much more likely that they will be exposed to the influenza virus than to the coronavirus," Governor Cuomo said."I am urging New Yorkers to take basic precautions against the flu, such as regular hand washing and avoiding close contact with people who are sick. These measures will also help people avoid coming in contact with the novel coronavirus."
The latest influenza surveillance report shows seasonal flu activity continues to increase in across New York State. Last week 2,015 New Yorkers were hospitalized with lab-confirmed influenza, up eight percent from the previous week. This season, there have been 11,539 flu-related hospitalizations. In addition, last week, 15,012 laboratory-confirmed flu cases were reported to the State Department of Health, an 11 percent increase in cases from the week prior. There has been a total of 72,385 lab-confirmed cases reported this season, with three flu-associated pediatric deaths. 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.
On January 3, the State Department of Health issued a statewide health advisory alerting healthcare providers to the dramatic increase in flu activity across New York State. The advisory also encourages providers to promote the effectiveness of patients getting vaccinated to help prevent the spread of influenza. While the effectiveness of the flu vaccine can vary, this year's flu vaccine is likely to be more effective against the types of flu viruses that are circulating this season.
Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, "As flu is considered widespread in New York State, taking everyday preventive steps such as washing hands often, covering a cough or sneeze and staying home when experiencing flu-like symptoms will help prevent the spread of the flu. These same actions will help protect New Yorkers against the novel coronavirus."
The latest increase in lab-confirmed flu hospitalizations comes after Dr. Zucker declared flu prevalent in December throughout 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.
The State Health Department recommends and urges 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.
While there is currently no vaccine for novel coronavirus, the same simple preventative measures for influenza can help stop the spread. Last week the Department of Health issued guidance to healthcare providers, healthcare facilities, clinical laboratories, colleges and local health departments to provide updated information about the outbreak, and ensure the proper protocols are in place if a patient is experiencing symptoms consistent with the novel coronavirus, had a travel history to Wuhan, China, or had come in contact with an individual who was under investigation for this novel coronavirus. Additionally, the Department has hosted a series of informational webinars for hospitals, colleges and local healthcare providers. The Department of Health is also working closely with the Centers for Disease Control to receive daily updates.
More information about the novel coronavirus is available here.
For Governor Cuomo's previous statements on novel coronavirus: