New York Governor Declares Public Health Emergency to Combat Flu

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a public health emergency on Saturday.

New York governor also gave permission to administer flu vaccinations to more people as people are dying because of the worst flu outbreak in that state in several years. Photo: atlcomphoto/ Flickr

According to the governor’s office, 19,128 cases of influenza have already been reported this season, compared with 4,404 positive laboratory tests reported for the entire 2011-2012 season.

“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 on Saturday.

The state health department revealed that a week ago it had reports of 2,884 patients hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed influenza, compared with 1,169 total hospitalizations in 2011.

Cuomo’s executive order temporarily allows pharmacists to give flu shots to children aged from 6 months to 18 years old. The state limits pharmacists to administering vaccinations only to people 18 and older, Reuters explains.

The governor said he instructed 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.”

New York governor also those who hadn’t fallen ill to do flu shot, noting that influenza cases continued to rise in New York.

In Boston, Mayor Thomas Menino, facing 10 times more flu cases than the previous year, declared a public health emergency on Wednesday.

The news comes soon after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the disease has officially reached epidemic proportions in the United States, with 7.3 percent of deaths last week caused by pneumonia and the flu.

“Most of the country is seeing or has seen a lot of flu. Only time will tell us how long our season will last or how moderate or severe it will be,” Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, said.

“… We are into what would classically be described as a flu epidemic,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, added. “It’s still on the uptick.”

“The only area of the country that’s still relatively unaffected … is the far West Coast,” although plenty of cases have been reported there, Dr. Joseph Bresee, head of the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch of the CDC’s Influenza Division, said Friday.

As the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reports, spread of the flu across the country appears to have slowed in some areas.

However, the number of states suffering the disease, increased to 47 from 41. The only states without widespread activity are California, Hawaii and Mississippi.

“Widespread” means that more than 50% of geographic regions in a state – counties, for example – are reporting flu activity. It addresses the spread of the flu, not its severity,” Frieden told reporters.

“Bottom line: It’s flu season.” He went on, adding that flu activity is “elevated” in most of the country, he said, and “it may be decreasing in some areas, but that’s hard to predict … influenza activity ebbs and flows.”

Officials will know in the next couple of weeks whether the season has peaked, he said. “The only thing predictable about the flu is, it’s unpredictable.”

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