Make an appointment for a flu shot, get a COVID vaccine, New York State health warns as cases soar – NBC New York
New York state health officials sounded new alarm bells Thursday, warning the flu is already widespread in the Big Apple and saying it’s likely only to get worse, thanks to the factor worsening of the COVID pandemic.
This “widespread” determination comes as more than half of the state’s 62 counties are reporting lab-confirmed cases — and New York is already well above that benchmark (71%).
Health officials say the number of lab-confirmed cases has increased since September and stood at 596 as of the end of the week of October 1 – and case rates have been particularly pronounced in the New York area, the Capital District and Central New York.
Upstate counties account for 57% of the nearly 600 confirmed cases to date – and the statewide total is already four times what it was during the relative period of last year, an increase of almost 300%. The numbers continue to rise week by week, officials say – and peak flu season, usually December to February, is still ahead.
Given the dual respiratory threat of influenza and COVID circulating simultaneously, state officials are urging everyone — and everyone — to get an annual flu shot. And if you haven’t received your latest COVID reminder, get it at the same time. And the message is to get your flu shot sooner than you otherwise would.
“I urge all New Yorkers to protect themselves, their families and friends by getting their flu shot as soon as possible,” said New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett, in a statement. “With the early and aggressive spread of the flu, the annual flu shot is the most effective protection against serious illness. The COVID-19 booster can also be given at the same time as the flu shot to better protect your health and that of those around you.
Both viral infections have similar symptoms, so it can be difficult to tell which one you have without a diagnostic test. Symptoms range from mild to severe, including fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. Vomiting and diarrhea are possible and illness may or may not be accompanied by fever.
Flu vaccines are available for people aged 6 months and over, but as with COVID, the elderly and people with certain chronic conditions, young children and pregnant women are more vulnerable to serious or fatal complications. . Find locations near you here.
New York plans to make a new live seasonal scoreboard for public tracking purposes of the 2022 flu at the end of the month. Health officials have offered some tips to avoid contracting — and spreading — both viruses over the next few months.
These should look familiar to you:
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds to protect yourself from germs and prevent spreading them to others
- Carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to use when soap and water are not available. Choose a product containing at least 60% alcohol
- Do not cough or sneeze into your hands. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue
- Stay home if you are sick
- Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth if you are symptomatic
Thursday’s announcement comes days after the CDC issued new flu vaccine guidance for vulnerable populations, particularly the elderly. They are now advised to get an extra strong dose. Learn more here.