25% Decrease in Lab Confirmed Flu Cases and 21% Decrease in Hospitalizations Since Last Week.
Long Island, NY - March 2, 2018 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that for the first time since being categorized as geographically widespread, the number of laboratory confirmed influenza cases has decreased. Last week, 13,703 laboratory confirmed influenza cases were reported to the New York State Department of Health and the number of weekly hospitalizations decreased for the third consecutive week since influenza was declared prevalent in December, with 1,702 New Yorkers hospitalized for lab confirmed influenza.
"The breadth of this year's flu epidemic has reminded all of us that we must remain vigilant in protecting ourselves and our loved ones," Governor Cuomo said. "Our comprehensive efforts to get New Yorkers vaccinated have greatly decreased the number of cases, but we still encourage New Yorkers to get vaccinated and take necessary steps to continue to stop the spread of this virus."
For the last 12 weeks, influenza has been geographically widespread across New York. As of February 24th, 101,312 laboratory confirmed cases of influenza have been reported and 18,282 people have been hospitalized with influenza in New York State this season. There have been 5 pediatric influenza-associated deaths this flu season. 16,704 children under the age of five have been diagnosed with lab confirmed influenza and 1,224 have been hospitalized. During last year's flu season, there were 12,912 flu-related hospitalizations and 8 pediatric deaths in New York. Over the previous four years, there were a total of 25 pediatric flu deaths in New York State and an average of 10,571 flu-related hospitalizations a year.
Last week, Governor Cuomo announced the extension of an Executive Order that 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. Governor Cuomo also recently 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.
Governor Cuomo also previously directed the New York State Department of Health to authorize enhanced reimbursement for counties statewide to further expanded flu vaccination efforts at the local level. The Department of Health's website links to local health departments, providing New Yorkers with a one-stop-shop approach to finding local vaccination clinics. The Department of Health is also promoting the use of HealthMap Vaccine Finder which identifies locations where vaccines can be found at other locations in New York State at http://www.vaccinefinder.org/.
New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, "While the decrease we are seeing in both the number of laboratory confirmed influenza cases and hospitalizations is encouraging news, New Yorkers must continue to be vigilant. Thanks to Governor Cuomo's efforts, more New Yorkers than ever have access to the flu vaccine and antiviral medications. I encourage anyone who hasn't yet been vaccinated to take advantage of these opportunities: it's not too late. And I am again reminding all New Yorkers to practice good hand hygiene and stay home if they are sick."
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.