Have you gotten your flu shot yet? The infection is widespread in New York, the state’s health department warned.
Influenza, referred to as the flu, is now prevalent in New York, Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said this week, meaning that any healthcare workers who have not yet been vaccinated are required to wear masks around patients.
So far this flu season, New York has had 1,820 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza in 54 counties and all five boroughs of New York City.
There have also been 612 influenza-related hospitalizations reported in the state. There have so far been no reports of pediatric deaths from influenza.
Each year in New York City alone, more than 2,000 New Yorkers die of seasonal influenza and pneumonia, which can often develop as a complication of the flu, according to the city.
Over the last three flu seasons, New York state saw 19 pediatric influenza deaths. Overall in the state, there’s an average of 11,182 influenza-related hospitalizations each flu season, according to the Department of Health.
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"Vaccination is the best way to protect against influenza and is especially important for healthcare workers," Zucker said in a statement. "Healthcare personnel are routinely exposed to sick patients and come in close contact with patients who are most vulnerable to influenza, such as the elderly. I encourage all New Yorkers older than six months to get their influenza shot as soon as possible."
Flu season is prominent from October through May and often peaks in February. Even though we’re in the midst of it, and the flu is already prevalent here, it’s not too late to get vaccinated, the health department said.
Health officials recommend that everyone six months and older get vaccinated. The vaccine is especially important, experts said, for those who are vulnerable to influenza-related complications, including children under 2, pregnant women, adults 65 and older and those with conditions like asthma and heart disease.
Even if you don’t have health insurance, county health departments can help you find local clinics that offer free or low-cost vaccinations. Residents 18 and older can often get a flu vaccine at a local pharmacy.