Flu season sickens more than 13,000 people in NYC, state health dept. says

The number of New York City residents who have come down with the flu has hit over 13,000 so far this season, as the state saw another record-breaking spike in new cases last week, the state Department of Health said Friday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is continuing his plea for New Yorkers to get the flu vaccine after the state health department recorded 11,683 new influenza cases and 2,221 hospitalizations in the week that ended on Jan. 27, both of which are now the highest recorded numbers in those categories since reporting began in 2004. The week before had set the previous record, with 7,779 new cases and 1,759 hospitalizations.

“Flu season is in full-swing, and as the number of influenza cases and hospitalizations continue to rise at alarming levels, we must take every action to protect ourselves and our loved ones,” Cuomo said on Thursday. “I am urging everyone to get vaccinated and take other necessary steps to stop the spread of this virus in New York.”

In the five boroughs, 13,231 influenza cases have been confirmed between the start of the flu season, which typically begins in early December, and Jan. 27, per the state health department.

A spokesman for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said city officials are carefully monitoring the rise in flu cases.

“The best thing people can do to protect themselves and their family is to get a flu shot now if they are not already vaccinated,” the city health department said in an emailed statement. “People who have a compromised immune system, children, pregnant women, and people 65 and older who develop influenza-like illness should seek medical care, especially since early treatment with antiviral medications may prevent severe illness from influenza infection.”

A total of 36,814 laboratory confirmed cases of influenza have been reported in New York, as of Jan. 27, and there have been 9,377 hospitalizations, per the state health department. By comparison, the 2016-2017 flu season resulted in 12,912 flu-related hospitalizations.

One child has died in New York as a result of the flu this season, but further details regarding the case were not released by health officials.

Last week, Cuomo signed an executive order that gives pharmacies the ability to administer flu vaccines to children between the ages of 2 and 18.

A section of state education law limits pharmacists from being able to immunize anyone under the age of 18. By suspending that part of the law and allowing them to do so, Cuomo said it will increase vaccine accessibility for children and families.

Even though the flu season is already in its eighth week, the CDC recommends vaccinations for as long as influenza viruses are circulating. There is currently no shortage of flu vaccines, according to the health department, and manufacturers expect to meet projected seasonal demands.

Health officials said in addition to getting vaccinated and practicing good hand-hygiene, it is important that people who do become sick stay home from work.