Rapid spread of flu in North Country and rest of state setting records
Friday, February 2, 2018 - 2:48 pm

The influenza epidemic continued to increase across the North Country and al of 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, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

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," 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, Cuomo signed an executive order allowing pharmacists to administer flu vaccines to children ages 2 to 18, increasing vaccine accessibility. The order suspends the section of state education law that limits the authority of pharmacists to administer immunizing agents to anyone under age 18.

New York residents who have not yet been vaccinated are still being advised by the governor to 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.

"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,” said New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. “ 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.

Unlike some viruses, influenza is easily killed by soap and hot water, according to the report from the governor’s office.

They say people should wash their hands often with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds to protect 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.