Influenza now "prevalent" in New York State, state health commissioner says

The state has confirmed 46 cases of the flu as of December 2.

In the United States last season, overall vaccine effectiveness against all circulating flu viruses was 39 percent and the effectiveness was only a bit lower, 32 percent, against H3N2 viruses.

Over the last three seasons, there have been 19 pediatric influenza deaths in NY and an average of 11,183 influenza-related hospitalizations each season.

An increasing trend in flu-related hospitalizations playing out early in the 2017-18 flu season is being seen in Fairfield County. Meanwhile, the DPH recommends children 6 months to 8 years old getting vaccinated for the first time should get two doses of vaccine.

The government recommends everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot.

The declaration by the state's top health official sets off a requirement that health workers who have not been vaccinated against the flu wear masks in areas where they are likely to encounter patients.

There have been 612 influenza-related hospitalizations reported, and no reports of pediatric deaths from influenza. Likewise, the 257 hospitalizations since the recognized start of the flu season mark a significant increase over the 83 to this point a year ago.

Flu season begins in October and lasts until May.

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It is not too late to get vaccinated and there are ample amounts of the vaccine available.

Most health insurance plans cover influenza vaccines.

In addition to lowering your chances of getting the flu, the shot can also make the illness milder if you do catch it. Studies of pregnant women who get the flu shot have also shown it can reduce their newborns' risk of catching the flu by half.

People with preexisting conditions such as asthma and heart disease are also at greater risk as are individuals with weakened immune systems due to disease or medications such as chemotherapy or chronic steroid use, public health officials said.

"Vaccination is the best way to protect against influenza, and is especially important for health care workers", Zucker said.

The prevalence of the flu prompted the face mask rule, which first went into effect during the 2013-14 influenza season.

It's still early in the flu season, but three U.S. states, Louisiana, Mississippi and SC, are experiencing high "Influenza-Like Illness" activity.

State regulations allows unvaccinated health care workers to remove their masks when accompanying patients in the community, providing speech therapy services, or communicating with persons who lip read.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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