Governor Orders Department of Health to Work with Healthcare Associations to Take Urgent Action Against Influenza; Number of New Yorkers Hospitalized for Influenza Rises to Highest Weekly Level.
Albany, NY - January 18, 2017 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today called on all New Yorkers six months of age and over who have not yet received a flu shot to get vaccinated as soon as possible. According to the Department of Health, cases of influenza rose by 54 percent and new cases were diagnosed in all counties of the state over the past week. In addition, 1,606 New Yorkers have been hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed influenza, the highest weekly number since Department of Health reporting began in 2004.
"With flu cases on the rise, New Yorkers should take steps to get vaccinated and protect themselves and their loved ones," Governor Cuomo said. "I am directing the Department of Health to work with local providers to help protect our communities from this flu outbreak, and I urge all New Yorkers to visit local health centers and get vaccinated as soon as possible."
For the last six weeks, influenza has been geographically widespread across New York. As of January 13th, 17,362 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza have been reported and 5,267 people have been hospitalized with influenza in New York State this season.
"Influenza is a potentially deadly disease, and getting vaccinated is the best thing New Yorkers can do to protect themselves and those around them, followed by good hand hygiene," said New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. "To address the high number of cases we're seeing across the state, Governor Cuomo has directed the Department of Health to work with healthcare associations to take action against the flu and coordinate on issues of hospital capacity and surge planning. I urge all New Yorkers to get vaccinated immediately."
In addition to calling on all New Yorkers to get vaccinated, Governor Cuomo directed the Department of Health to take the following actions:
Continue surveillance of hospitals statewide on bed capacity and supply of vaccines and antiviral medications;
Coordinate with Greater New York Hospital Association, Healthcare Association of New York State, and the Community Health Care Association of New York State to support hospitals on capacity issues and encourage them to review their surge plans to expand capacity;
Ensure that New York continues to have an adequate supply of flu vaccine and remaining in close communication with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) regarding vaccine availability. CDC is currently reporting adequate supplies of flu vaccine nationwide; and
Promote the usage of HealthMap Vaccine Finder, developed by Google and supported by the CDC, a free and helpful online service that allows users to search for locations offering immunizations. To find a flu vaccine near you, please visit: www.vaccinefinder.org.
To receive a flu shot, contact your local health care provider or pharmacy, or find information about vaccination clinics by contacting your local health department.
"Greater New York Hospital Association staff are working closely with member hospitals and the Department of Health to ensure the necessary capacity to serve communities across New York as cases of influenza continue to rise statewide," said Kenneth E. Raske, President of the Greater New York Hospital Association. "The importance of getting a flu vaccine cannot be stressed enough. New York's hospitals will continue to ensure that they are well equipped to handle a surge of patients should this dramatic increase in flu rates continue."
"Hospitals throughout New York are on the front lines in the response to this uptick in influenza cases," said Bea Grause, President of the Healthcare Association of New York State. "HANYS is working closely with the State Department of Health to ensure that hospitals and health systems continue to have the capacity and resources needed to meet the challenges presented by this increase in illness."
"The extraordinarily high rate of influenza this year underscores the critical importance of preventive care," said Rose Duhan, President and CEO of the Community Health Care Association of New York State. "Community health centers are available to help New Yorkers prevent influenza through immunization and are there to provide care and treatment to individuals who think they may have gotten the flu. New York's community health centers stand ready to work with the NYS Department of Health and our partners across the State to ensure that all patients, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay, get the care they need."
In addition, while influenza A(H3N2) viruses have been the most common ones circulating nationally, at times this season, influenza B has been the most common strain circulating in some areas of the state. The influenza vaccine is typically more effective against influenza B, which reiterates how important it is for New Yorkers to get vaccinated.
Adults aged 65 years and older, people with certain chronic medical conditions, young children and pregnant women are among those at highest risk for serious influenza complications, which may require hospitalization and could result in death. Since the influenza virus can spread through coughing or sneezing, it is especially important for family members and people who have regular contact with high-risk individuals to be vaccinated.
According to the CDC, vaccination should continue throughout flu season, as long as influenza viruses are circulating. Flu vaccine can vary in how well it works, but 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.
Influenza can cause mild to severe illness. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea. People infected with influenza may have respiratory symptoms without a fever. CDC 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 antiviral drugs, and manufacturers report they expect to meet projected seasonal demands.
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.
In addition to getting a flu shot, 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.