NEW YORK – State health officials are urging New Yorkers to get an annual flu shot, especially those 6 months of age and older, after the state announced its first pediatric flu-related death of the season.
The New York State Department of Health warns that the flu has spread statewide for the past nine weeks with a new report showing a week-over-week increase of 64% for the week ending Dec. 3. the week before and a 58% increase in hospitalizations. The Department’s most recent influenza surveillance report also found cases in all 62 New York counties.
The state’s weekly flu report also confirmed one childhood flu-related death, the first of the season in the state. No further information about the death has been released in an effort to protect the patient’s privacy, the state health department said.
“Our message is simple but urgent, especially as we approach the holiday season: Get vaccinated today,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett. “This year’s vaccine is a highly effective combination for the currently circulating influenza strain, as well as a safe, widely available and critically important step in slowing the spread of this highly infectious virus. Because influenza can cause serious complications of health or even death, I urge all New Yorkers who have not yet been vaccinated to do so as soon as possible to protect themselves, their loved ones and their community.
As Christmas gatherings of family and friends and mass activities approach, health officials say it’s important to take safety precautions to protect yourself from the flu. Recommendations include getting vaccinated and wearing a mask if you have symptoms or if you have or are close to someone at high risk. Those considered most vulnerable to infections include children under the age of five, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with underlying health conditions such as a weakened immune system, diabetes, heart and lung disease, and asthma.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available;
- Avoid touching your face with dirty hands;
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick;
- Stay home when you are sick;
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw it away.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
“Although respiratory viruses are spreading at high levels in New York City, there are common-sense ways to protect yourself and your loved ones this holiday season: vaccinations, booster shots, wearing a mask indoors or in a crowd, and staying home if you don’t feel well, Vasan said in a tweet.
The city advisory recommends that everyone wear a mask at all times indoors, as well as in crowded outdoor settings. City officials are also urging those who are sick and unable to separate from others to wear masks. Additionally, those who test positive for COVID-19 are required to wear masks.
“Use a high-quality mask, such as a KN95 or KF94 or N95 respirator, for added protection,” city health officials say.