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Cuomo declares public health emergency due to flu outbreak

With 23,501 reported cases of influenza in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has declared a state Public Health Emergency calling for all individuals over the age of six months to receive a flu vaccination. Photo by AP.
January 22, 2013
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has declared a state Public Health Emergency as the number of influenza cases has reached epidemic proportions.

Up nearly five times as much as the last flu season, this season already brought with it 23,501 cases of influenza reported in New York as of Jan. 16. Since statistics were provided by the Department of Health on January 12, 4,373 new cases were reported. Last year's flu season brought with it a total of 4,404 cases.

"We are experiencing the worst flu season since at least 2009, and influenza activity in New York state is widespread, with cases reported in all 57 counties and all five boroughs of New York City," Cuomo said in a statement.

Part of the governor's response to the severe flu season was issuing an Executive Order to allow pharmacists to administer flu vaccinations to anyone between the age of six months and 18 years-old. Normally vaccinations for children can only be administered by a doctor under State Education Law, however, Cuomo suspended those regulations for 30 days.

Flu vaccinations are altered each season to better fight the strains deemed the most common in a given year. The 2012-2013 flu vaccination protects against three different flu viruses, the H3N2 virus, Influenza B virus and the H1N1 virus.

"This year's influenza season is off to the earliest start in New York state since the 2003-2004 season," said Jeffrey Hammond of the state Department of Health. "This influenza season looks to be more severe than recent seasons. Because influenza activity is always unpredictable, the best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated."

In a statement, Cuomo said it is not too late to get vaccinated. According to the DOH website the flu season does not usually peak until February and can continue through to May.

As of Jan. 16, the DOH has already received reports of 4,153 patients hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed influenza, up 1,269 from Jan.12, compared to 1,169 hospitalizations in 2011.

Cuomo advised his administration and state officials to "marshal all needed resources to address this public health emergency and remove all barriers to ensure that all New Yorkers children and adults alike- have access to critically needed flu vaccines."

To date, two children in New York state and eighteen children across the U.S. have died as a result of the 2012-2013 flu season.

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