As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared influenza a national epidemic this week, New York reported a 90 percent increase in flu cases from the week before — almost 4,000 cases during a seven-day period.

The CDC urged anyone who still hasn’t received a flu vaccination to get the vaccine “immediately.”

Vaccinations not only help protect those who receive the vaccine, but also any high-risk persons they may come into contact with, such as children or the elderly. Fifteen pediatric deaths this season have already been attributed to influenza, including one in New York last month.

The risk of a severe flu season is especially great this winter because of the prevalence of H3N2 influenza-A flu viruses, which causes “more severe flu illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths during seasons when these viruses predominate,” according to the CDC. These particular viruses are commonly “drift variants,” which are more suspect to genetic changes that make flu vaccines less effective.

Almost 1,000 patients were hospitalized in New York last week with laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza. The flu causes approximately between 3,000 and 49,000 deaths every year, according to the New York State Department of Health.

The best way to prevent the flu is vaccination. Other steps you can take include washing your hands often with warm water and soap, covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth, avoiding contact with sick persons and staying home if you get infected to avoid infecting others.

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Katie, winner of the 2016 James Murphy Cub Reporter of the Year award from the L.I. Press Club, is a co-publisher of RiverheadLOCAL. A Riverhead native, she is a 2014 graduate of Stony Brook University. Email Katie