Flu cases increased sharply in New York in the past week, after influenza was declared prevalent in the state a week ago.

Data released by the state health department yesterday show a 60% spike in laboratory-confirmed influenza in New York.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a statement encouraging New Yorkers to get vaccinated against the flu.

“As flu cases continue to climb across the state, I am urging New Yorkers to protect themselves and their loved ones against this dangerous virus by getting vaccinated,” Cuomo said in the press release. “The flu shot is still the best way to stay healthy during this season and New Yorkers should take advantage of the expanded access to the flu vaccine and help prevent the spread of this virus,” he said.

According to the state health department, there 86 laboratory-confirmed flu cases reported in Suffolk County in the week ending Dec. 7. Of those cases, 44 were influenza type A and 42 were type B.

Statewide, there were 1,839 laboratory confirmed flu cases reported in the current week, a 60% increase in cases from the week prior. There have been 4,989 laboratory confirmed cases reported to the department so far this flu season.

The number of weekly hospitalizations has also increased, with 328 New Yorkers hospitalized for lab confirmed influenza, up 32% from the previous report.

So far this season in New York, 1,040 flu-related hospitalizations and one flu-associated pediatric death have been reported.

The state health department releases flu data every week on Thursday afternoon.

State health commissioner Howard Zucker said the vaccine is especially important for people at high risk for complications from influenza, including children under age 2, pregnant women and adults over age 65. People with pre-existing conditions, such as asthma and heart disease, are also at greater risk, as are individuals with weakened immune systems due to disease or medications such as chemotherapy or chronic steroid use.

Since influenza virus can spread easily by coughing or sneezing, it is also important that family members and people in regular contact with high-risk individuals get an influenza vaccine, the health department said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conduct studies each year to determine how effective that year’s vaccine is at protecting against influenza-related illness. While the effectiveness can vary from year to year, studies show that the vaccine remains the most effective way to protect public health, according to the state health department. Additionally, studies show that the influenza vaccine can make the illness milder in certain cases where an individual was vaccinated but still contracted influenza, the department said.

Most health insurance plans cover influenza vaccines. Individuals and families without health insurance should check with their county health department to find out if local clinics will be held to provide free or low-cost vaccinations. Children two years of age and older and adults may also be able to get their influenza vaccine at a local pharmacy.

For additional information about influenza, including how it is monitored in New York State, visit the Department of Health web page.

https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/influenza/seasonal/

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.