(AP) New York officials have declared that the flu is "prevalent'' in the state.
This declaration initiates a state regulation that will require healthcare professionals who are not vaccinated for influenza to wear masks in areas where patients are present.
"Getting vaccinated remains the best way for all New Yorkers to protect against the flu, and it is vital for caregivers who come in contact with patients to get vaccinated to help prevent the spread of flu," State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said.
As of Nov. 30 there have been 3,158 laboratory-confirmed cases, 691 hospitalizations, and one child death, according to the state Department of Health.
Heath officials recommend that anyone older than six months should be vaccinated, particularly the elderly and children younger than 2 years old.
Vaccines change each year based on predictions on what strains of the virus will be prevalent.
Health officials recommend getting vaccinated regardless of efficacy as it will still make the illness milder.
“The absolute best gift this holiday season is the health and wellness of our loved ones,” said Orange County Health Commissioner Dr. Irina Gelman. “And the single best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated each year. The body’s immune response from vaccination declines over time and because flu viruses are constantly changing, the formulation of the flu vaccine is reviewed each year and updated as needed to keep up with changing flu viruses. For these reasons, a flu vaccine is needed annually.”
Gelman said the influenza season can last until May. Symptoms develop may include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, chills and fatigue. Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea.
County Executive Steve Neuhaus said the vaccine is readily available from a variety of sources, and there is no shortage.