State Commissioner of Health Declares Influenza No Longer Prevalent in New York State

Declaration Lifts Requirement that Unvaccinated Health Care Workers Wear Masks

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 4, 2017) - New York State Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker today declared influenza is no longer prevalent in New York State. This declaration means that New York State health care workers who are not vaccinated against influenza are no longer required to wear masks in areas where patients are typically present.

"Even though the flu is no longer prevalent in New York, it's important for everyone to know they can still get it," Dr. Zucker said. "If you do get the flu, I urge you to take precautions to prevent it from spreading. Stay home from work, and avoid public places. Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. It's important we all do our part in preventing the transmission of flu."

The Regulation for Prevention of Influenza Transmission went into effect during the 2013-14 influenza season. The regulation requires health care workers in certain facilities regulated by the New York State Department of Health to wear surgical or procedure masks if they have not had a flu vaccine while influenza is prevalent in New York. For this flu season, Dr. Zucker previously declared influenza prevalent in the state on December 28, 2016.

Flu activity in the state peaked in mid-February, when there were more than 6,000 laboratory-confirmed cases in one week. Those numbers have since fallen to below 1,400 in the week ending April 22, 2017.

Flu is considered widespread when there are laboratory-confirmed cases in more than 31 of the 62 counties. Whether the flu is prevalent is a determination made at the discretion of the state Commissioner of Health.

For information on how individuals can protect themselves, their co-workers, and their families from the flu, please visit:

Transmitting flu from health care personnel to patients is a serious patient safety issue. Because health care workers are at increased risk of acquiring influenza from their contact with ill patients, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly recommends that health care workers be vaccinated for influenza. Wearing a mask can reduce transmission and is an alternative for individuals who cannot be vaccinated or who refuse vaccination.

In New York State, 86% of health care personnel in surveyed facilities were vaccinated during the 2015-2016 flu season. Information on state vaccination rates by health care facility can be found here:

For more information about influenza, including how it is monitored in New York State, please visit the Department of Health web page at: