Flu Season has Officially Begun in New York State

State Health Commissioner: Not Too Late to Get Vaccinated

Albany, NY, January 10, 2006 - With this year's Influenza season here and sporadic cases of flu cases being reported across New York, State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D. M.P.H., Dr.P.H. today urged all New Yorkers who are seeking the flu shot to continue to pursue vaccination.

"It is not too late to get vaccinated," said Dr. Novello. "For every confirmed case of influenza, there are other individuals who are sick or at risk for the flu. Remember, it typically takes 1 to 2 weeks after vaccination for immunity against the flu to develop so if your health care provider or local health department have vaccine available, please seek the flu shot to better protect your health."

Although some people may have had difficulty finding flu vaccine earlier this year, manufacturers have shipped new doses during the past few weeks. Some areas have more vaccine than others. The State Health Department has provided many local health departments with flu vaccine for use in public clinics or by area physicians. In addition, the Department has approximately 15,000 doses of vaccine, which will be made available to local health departments upon request.

The Department has laboratory confirmation cases reported thru December 30th in 19 counties and 4 of the 5 boroughs of New York City, the flu season has officially begun in New York State. Counties that have reported cases include: Albany, Allegany, Broome, Clinton, Cortland, Erie, Herkimer, Monroe, Nassau, Oneida, Onondaga, Ontario, Orange, Otsego, Rockland, Schoharie, Suffolk, Wayne, and Westchester. Confirmed cases have been reported in the following boroughs: Bronx, Kings, New York and Queens.

About the flu:

Influenza is a serious disease that contributes to 36,000 deaths, on average, each year and 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 and sore throat.

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

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.

For more information about influenza, visit the State Health Department's web site at www.health.ny.gov. The public may also check with a pharmacist, senior center or their local health department to find out whether vaccine is available in their community.