State Health Commissioner Urges New Yorkers to Get Flu Shots

Babies and Elderly at Higher Risk for Flu

Picture of Commissioner Daines receiving his flu shotPicture of Deputy Commissioner Wendy Saunders receiving her flu shot

New York State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., and New York State Health Chief of Staff Wendy Saunders receive their flu shots.

Albany, N.Y. (October 11, 2007) - State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines M.D., and State Department of Civil Service Commissioner Nancy G. Groenwegen will receive their annual flu shots today in Albany to urge New Yorkers to reduce their risk for flu this year. There were nine pediatric deaths attributed to the flu in New York state during last year's flu season.

To emphasize how serious the flu can be for babies, the Health Department has a new poster featuring infants and the recommendation that kids from 6 months to 5 years old get a flu shot. (Photo below.) During this year's flu season, there have already been two reports of influenza in New York State and approximately 100 reports nationwide.

"The complications of influenza can be life threatening to the elderly, the very young and those with underlying medical conditions," Commissioner Daines said. "Tragically, during last year's flu season, nine infant deaths were attributed to the flu. These needless deaths illustrate how important it is to contact your health care provider to get your flu shot."

"The health of our workforce is very important to us," said Civil Service Commissioner Nancy G. Groenwegen. "Nurses from our Employee Health Service will be available to administer flu shots at 22 state government facilities throughout the state in the coming months. We expect to administer more than 7,000 shots."

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there will be plentiful supplies of flu vaccine over the course of the 2007-08 flu season. It is anticipated that approximately 140 million doses of vaccine will be available this year, more than has ever been distributed in the U.S. during a single influenza season.

This year's influenza vaccine contains antigens to the three strains of flu virus that experts expect will most likely be circulating during the 2007-08 flu season: A/Wisconsin, A/Solomon Islands, and B/Malaysia, or their equivalents. It's important to get a flu shot annually since viruses that cause flu often change from year to year.

Those at higher risk for flu include:

  • Persons 50 years of age and older, with or without chronic health conditions;
  • Children aged 6 months up to their 5th birthday;
  • Residents of long-term care facilities;
  • Adults and children with chronic health conditions;
  • Pregnant women;
  • Health care personnel;
  • Household contacts and caregivers of children under 5 years of age and adults 50 years of age and older;
  • Household contacts and caregivers to persons with medical conditions that put them at higher risk for severe complications from influenza; and
  • All persons, including school-aged children, who want to reduce the risk of becoming ill with influenza or of transmitting influenza to others.

People at high risk of medical complications should also receive pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV) which protects against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria, commonly known as pneumonia. One dose of PPV usually will provide lifetime immunity to persons over 65 years of age.

Those who want to get a flu shot should check with their health care providers to determine whether they have received vaccine. Information about flu vaccination clinics is also posted online by the New York State Office for the Aging at www.aging.ny.gov. The public may also check with a local pharmacist or senior center, or contact the county Office for the Aging or Health Department to find out when and where clinics have been scheduled in their community.

Influenza is a serious disease that contributes to 36,000 deaths, on average, each year and more than 200,000 annual hospitalizations. Symptoms of influenza resemble those of a cold, but come on much more swiftly and are more pronounced. A person who has the flu usually has a fever over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, chills, a severe headache and muscle aches as well as a cough or sore throat.

Individuals who know that they have been exposed to someone with influenza, or who are experiencing symptoms of flu, should consult with their health care provider immediately to determine if antiviral drugs may be helpful.

Treatment with antiviral medications can sometimes make the course of illness less severe, if treatment is started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. Antibiotics are not effective against influenza.

Please visit the department of Health Web site for more information about the flu at www.health.ny.gov.

Picture of several infants with post-it note reminders to immunize your child

The above poster is available as a JPEG file.