NEW YORK — State health officials are urging New Yorkers to get an annual flu shot, especially those 6 months and older, after the state announced the first flu-related child death of the season.
The New York State Department of Health has warned that influenza has spread across the state over the past nine weeks, with a new report showing a 64% week-over-week increase for the week ending Dec. 3. the week before, and hospitalizations increased by 58%. The department’s most recent influenza surveillance report also found cases in all 62 New York counties.
The state’s weekly flu report also confirmed a flu-related child death, the first death of the season in the state. The state health department said no additional information about the death was being released in an effort to protect patient privacy.
“Our message is simple but urgent, especially as we approach the holiday season: Get vaccinated today,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett. “This year’s vaccine is a highly effective combination of a currently circulating flu strain as well as a safe route to becoming widely available and critically important for slowing the spread of this highly infectious virus. Since flu can lead to serious health complications, or death, I urge all New Yorkers who have not yet been vaccinated to do so as soon as possible to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their community.
As the holiday season draws closer to gatherings and group activities among family and friends, health officials say it’s important to take safety precautions to protect yourself from the flu. Recommendations include getting vaccinated and wearing a mask if you have symptoms or if you have or are around someone at high risk. Those considered most vulnerable to infection include children under the age of five, pregnant women, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems, underlying health conditions such as diabetes, heart and lung disease, and asthma.
In addition to getting vaccinated, health officials also recommend other preventive measures to help stop the spread of the flu, COVID-19, and other respiratory viruses:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available;
- Avoid touching your face with dirty hands;
- avoid close contact with sick people;
- stay home when you are sick;
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw it away;
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Given the high levels of COVID-19, flu and RSV cases, New York City health officials also issued an advisory last week strongly urging New Yorkers to wear face masks.
New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan says that because of the increase in respiratory viruses, the city’s health office is recommending not only the use of masks, but also vaccinations and reinforcements.
“Although respiratory viruses are spreading at a high level in New York City, there are common-sense ways to protect yourself and your loved ones this holiday season: vaccinations, boosters, wearing a mask indoors or in crowds and if you feel If you don’t then stay home. Well, Vasan said in a tweet.
The city’s advisory recommends that everyone should wear a mask at all times indoors as well as in crowded outdoor places. City officials are also urging people who are sick and unable to isolate themselves from others, to wear masks. Also, those who test positive for COVID-19 are required to wear a mask.
City health officials say, “Use a high-quality mask like a KN95 or KF94 or N95 respirator for extra protection.”