Brooklyn Boro

Drastic rise in flu across New York; Hospital beds filling up

January 19, 2018 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Navy veteran Shawn Burrough became seriously ill last year after catching the flu in San Diego. Burrough did not get a flu shot last year.  Photo by Jennifer Burrough via AP

Cases of influenza shot up dramatically over the past weeks across New York, and the illness is sending New Yorkers to the hospital in record numbers.

According to the state Department of Health (DOH), cases of influenza across New York rose by 54 percent over the week ending Jan. 13. At least 1,606 infected New Yorkers were hospitalized that week — the highest weekly number since DOH reporting began in 2004, the state reports.

Overall so far this flu season, 17,362 confirmed cases of influenza have been reported, and 5,267 people have been hospitalized across the state.

The flu is sickening New York City residents in large numbers. More than 520 people with flu-like illnesses visited city emergency departments on Jan. 2, the season’s peak day so far, according to NYC DOH (compared to roughly 100 a day in August and early September). The number dipped over the next few days, then shot back up again

The largest number of the city’s ER flu visits took place in Queens and Brooklyn, and the largest number of these patients were children up to the age of 4 years old.

These high numbers have caused Gov. Andrew Cuomo to direct DOH to help coordinate hospital bed capacity and surge planning, and to ensure that New York has an adequate supply of flu vaccine. CDC is currently reporting adequate supplies of flu vaccine nationwide.

Kenneth E. Raske, president of the Greater New York Hospital Association, said in a statement that New York’s hospitals “will continue to ensure that they are well equipped to handle a surge of patients should this dramatic increase in flu rates continue.”

Cuomo and health officials are also urging all residents over 6 months of age who have not yet received a flu shot to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

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Health experts also want people to wash their hands frequently. Unlike some viruses, influenza is easily killed by soap and hot water.

At the start of the flu season, Dr. Gary Paul Leonardi, director of the Virology Laboratory at Nassau University Medical Center, spoke to the Brooklyn Eagle about the importance of getting the flu shot.

“Even if it’s only 40 or 50 percent effective, it’s still something,” Leonardi said. “Why get sick? It might help you.”

Dr. Boris Sagalovich, clinical assistant professor at NYU Langone Health in Brooklyn and Queens, told the Eagle that handwashing “is very, very important.”

If you can’t wash them, sanitize them, he said, adding that people should be “conscious of touching your face with your hands.” Contact with nasal passages and the mouth is how infections gain entry.

To find a flu vaccine near you, please visit: www.vaccinefinder.org.

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