State Health Commissioner Urges New Yorkers to Stay Healthy This Holiday Season by Getting Vaccinated Against the Flu

National Influenza Vaccination Week is December 5-11

ALBANY, N.Y. (Dec. 6, 2010) – In preparation for holiday travel and in recognition of National Influenza Vaccination Week, December 5-11, State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., today urged all New Yorkers six months and older to get vaccinated against the flu if they haven't already done so.

"Holiday travel and family get-togethers can increase exposure to the flu," said Commissioner Daines. "Vaccination is the best prevention against the flu, and this year for the first time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York State Health Department are recommending that all persons six months of age and older get vaccinated. So if you haven't already gotten the vaccine, there is no time better than now."

Dr. Daines emphasized that seasonal flu is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and even death. Anyone can get sick from the flu, even healthy people. More than 23,600 people die from the flu each year in the United States.

Dr. Daines said that the New York State Department of Health (DOH) is seeing more cases of flu every week, but expects that flu cases will peak in the coldest months of January and February. "Unlike last year, when the flu struck most heavily in the spring and fall, we expect this year's flu season to be more typical, with the greatest flu activity during the coldest months," said Dr. Daines. He noted that the flu season lasts through May.

An ample supply of flu vaccine is available this year at physician offices, pharmacies, and local health department flu clinics.

Dr. Daines emphasized that New Yorkers need to get the 2010-11 seasonal flu vaccine even if they got the flu vaccine last season. Since flu viruses constantly change, different viruses can spread each flu season. The vaccine is updated each year to protect against the three flu viruses that research indicates will cause the most illness at that time.

Dr. Daines said that, to date, this year's flu vaccine appears to be effective against the three flu viruses circulating this year.

An annual flu vaccination is especially important for those at high risk for serious flu-related complications (including people with chronic health problems) and for those who live with, or care for, people who are at high risk. These people include:

  • Pregnant women;
  • Children younger than five, but especially children younger than two;
  • People 50 and older but especially people 65 and older;
  • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, asthma, diabetes and HIV;
  • Residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities; and,
  • People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from the flu, including health care personnel; household contacts of people at high risk for complications from the flu; and household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children younger than six months (These children are especially vulnerable because they are too young to be vaccinated).

For more information about National Influenza Vaccination Week and the flu, visit DOH's Web site at: health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/influenza/seasonal/ and the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control Web site at: cdc.gov/flu/nivw/