Widespread Flu is Reported in New York State

Vaccine Supply Plentiful - Not Too Late for Flu Shots

ALBANY, N.Y. (Jan 22, 2008) - New York State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., today reminded New Yorkers who have not been vaccinated for influenza (flu) that it's NOT too late to get their annual shot. Influenza is widespread in New York and other states, and has been increasing over the past few weeks. To date, influenza has been reported in 34 New York State counties and in the five boroughs of New York City. This year, health care providers and local health departments have ample supplies of flu vaccine.

Flu poses a serious health concern that is preventable, especially for the very young, the elderly and anyone with a chronic medical condition," said Commissioner Daines. "Each year about 36,000 people die and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized in the United States due to complications from influenza. In New York there are approximately 2,300 deaths and 13,000 hospitalizations related to influenza."

The State Health Department urges New Yorkers who have not already been vaccinated for flu to contact their health care provider for their annual shot to reduce their risk for flu. Immunity against the flu develops two weeks after vaccination, providing protection against the flu for the rest of the flu season.

The flu season can begin as early as October and last through March or even April or May. During the last few influenza seasons, activity has increased steadily through December and January, peaked in late February or early March, and continued into May.

Symptoms of influenza can include fever, chills, severe headache, and muscle aches, as well as cough or sore throat. Symptoms of influenza may be similar to cold symptoms, but come on more swiftly and are more pronounced.

Anyone who wants to reduce their risk of the flu should get vaccinated. Vaccination is particularly recommended for those at higher risk for complications of influenza and those who work with such persons, including:

  • Anyone with chronic illnesses such as heart, lung or kidney disease or diabetes;
  • Pregnant women;
  • Infants aged six months until their fifth birthday;
  • Residents of nursing homes;
  • People aged 50 years or older; and,
  • Health care workers and caregivers of high-risk persons.

If you have been exposed to someone with influenza or someone who is experiencing symptoms of influenza, consult with your health care provider immediately to determine whether antiviral drugs may be helpful. Treatment with antiviral medications can sometimes lessen the effects of influenza, if treatment is started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. Antibiotics are not effective against influenza.

Although getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent getting influenza, you can also reduce your risk by washing your hands regularly and disinfecting surfaces, such as desktops and telephones. Eating healthy foods, getting enough rest, and exercise can also help protect against influenza.

To locate a flu clinic in your area, contact your health care provider, your local health department or visit the State Health Department Web site for general flu information at nyhealth.gov/diseases/communicable/influenza/seasonal/ or the State Office for the Aging Web site at www.aging.ny.gov/Health/Flu/FluIndex.cfm.