This flu season has been particularly frightful in New York, so much so that Sen. Chuck Schumer has called on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to send out a special “Domestic Flu Surveillance Team.”
The state is facing a “historic” outbreak of influenza — more than 7,000 New Yorkers have been hospitalized so far this season, compared to about 4,300 people hospitalized by this same time last season — and thus needs help from the federal health protection agency, according to Schumer.
“A New York specific flu surveillance team would help take the state’s temperature on the epidemic and help break its fever,” he said in a statement. “With record-setting highs this season, it’s absolutely critical that New York have the resources it needs to track the flu’s path, gather intelligence and combat this powerful virus.”
The CDC should “immediately designate” a special domestic flu team for New York, he added, “to hone in on the virus and augment the great work of our local hospitals and health departments.”
In total, there have been more than 25,000 laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu this season, according to the state’s health department, and one pediatric flu-related death. By this time last season, there were about 16,850 lab-confirmed cases of the flu statewide.
As of Jan. 18, the weekly rate of influenza hospitalizations in New York was the highest it had been since the state began reporting the data in 2004, according to the health department.
Over the last four years, New York state has seen a total of 25 flu deaths — eight of which occurred last season — and an average of about 10,500 flu-related hospitalizations each year. Flu season is prominent from October through May and often peaks in February.
In a letter to CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, Schumer asked for help from the agency in collecting and analyzing data on how to target the flu and provide city and state officials here with “all the federal resources they need to combat this flu epidemic.”
On Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo also addressed the epidemic, signing an executive order allowing pharmacists to administer flu vaccines to children between 2 and 18 years old as part of a “multi-pronged prevention effort.”
In addition to getting the flu shot and staying home when sick, officials advise people to wash their hands often with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds, carry alcohol-based hand sanitizer and not cough or sneeze into their hands.