The New York State Department of Health continues to emphasize the importance of getting a flu shot for everyone aged six months and older, as influenza activity remains widespread in New York. This is the twelfth consecutive week of widespread activity reported this season.
“We are still in a triple-demic of flu, COVID and RSV. Getting your flu and COVID shots remains your best protection against serious illness as flu and COVID are still causing substantial impacts on our strained health care system,” Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. “While the downward trend in week-over-week flu cases is encouraging, we are still waiting to see the impact of recent holiday gatherings. Everyone aged six months and older is encouraged to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
The Department’s latest flu surveillance report, with data through Dec. 24, shows a total of 255,981 positive influenza cases across all 62 counties in New York have been reported to date. Additionally, there were 43 outbreaks in acute care and long-term care facilities. There were no influenza-associated pediatric deaths reported this week. Five influenza-associated pediatric deaths have been reported for the season.
Outside of New York City, lab-confirmed flu cases are down 26 percent, falling from 36,045 to 26,832 new cases. The report also found that confirmed cases in New York City dropped 18 percent from 14,777 to 12,059 new cases. This amounts to an overall 23 percent decrease in cases statewide. Hospitalizations were also down 14percent from the previous week ending the week of Dec. 24 at 2,501 hospitalizations across the State.
The report is available on NYSDOH’s Flu Tracker, which provides timely information about local, regional, and statewide flu activity. Nationally, the weekly U.S. surveillance report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates there have been 13,000 deaths across the country attributed to the flu so far this season, including 61 influenza-associated pediatric deaths. CDC’s report found an estimated 210,000 hospitalizations due to influenza, putting the cumulative rate at 4 times higher than the highest rate for this same time over the last decade.
The Department reminds everyone it’s not too late to get your annual flu shot. Individuals are also encouraged to wear a well-fitting mask, especially for those who experience symptoms or live with, care for, or are considered at a heightened risk of severe illness, including children 5 years of age or younger, pregnant people, older adults, and/or those with underlying health conditions such as a weakened immune system, diabetes, heart and/or lung disease, and/or asthma.
To treat influenza infections, there are antiviral medications that can be prescribed by health care providers, such as Tamiflu, which can reduce the length and severity of the flu. Amid reports of spot shortages in some areas, the federal government recently gave the State permission to tap into the Strategic National Stockpile to secure Tamiflu and ensure supplies are available as needed.
Avoiding illness by getting the flu shot remains the most effective way to prevent infection and reduce the risk of severe illness for children and adults. According to research gathered by the CDC, vaccination has significant health advantages, particularly for people at risk of getting very sick, including:
- It prevents people from getting sick with the flu, cutting the risk of having to go to the doctor by 40 to 60 percent.
- In children, the vaccine reduces the risk of severe, life-threatening influenza by 75 percent; decreases flu-related hospitalizations by 41 percent; and cuts the risk of emergency department visits in half.
- Flu vaccination during pregnancy reduces the risk of being hospitalized by an average of 40 percent and helps protect the baby from flu for several months after birth, when babies are too young to get vaccinated.
- For older adults, the vaccine reduces the risk of flu-associated hospitalization by about 40 percent.
- Among those with chronic health conditions, the vaccine is associated with lower rates of some cardiac events, as well as reducing the risk of hospitalization from flu-related worsening of lung diseases and diabetes.
The flu vaccine is widely available, found at pharmacies, health clinics and physician’s offices across the state. The Department also strongly encourages everyone who is eligible, age 6 months and older, to get a COVID-19 vaccine. It is safe to get both the flu and COVID-19 vaccines at the same time. To find a flu or COVID-19 vaccine location near you, visit vaccines.gov.
In addition to getting the vaccine and wearing a mask when indoors or in crowds, simple preventative actions can help stop the spread of flu and other respiratory viruses:
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when sick.
- Cover cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
For more information about influenza in New York, visit the Department’s flu website at https://health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/influenza/seasonal/.
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