February 9, 2008 – Influenza has arrived in New York City, so if you and your family have not been vaccinated against the disease this season – now is the time to do it. Surveillance systems indicate that influenza is now spreading among New Yorkers, the Health Department reported today. There is plenty of vaccine available this year and there is still time to get vaccinated, so the Health Department is urging all New Yorkers to get vaccinated and reduce their risk.
“The best way to protect yourself or your loved ones from getting very ill is to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, New York City Health Commissioner. “Young children and older adults are at higher risk of hospitalization and death if they get sick. So don’t take the risk – get the vaccine today.”
Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory infection that, together with pneumonia, kills thousands of New Yorkers every year. Besides safeguarding people from days or weeks of debilitating sickness, the vaccine can prevent unnecessary school absences, doctor visits and hospitalizations. While anyone can get influenza, some groups are especially at high risk of complications and death:
- Children between 6 months and 18 years of age
- Adults 50 and older – especially those over 65
- Pregnant women
- People with chronic health conditions
- People in nursing homes and other long-term care
- Health-care workers
- Anyone in close daily contact with children under 5
years old – especially those in contact with infants younger than 6 months
- Anyone in close daily contact with people who are over 50 years old or living with chronic health conditions
Influenza symptoms include a fever, dry cough and body aches – not a stomach ache or vomiting. And influenza is not just a bad cold. It is caused by a completely different virus. “If you do get influenza, cover your cough and stay home to minimize the spread of disease to others,” said Dr. Frieden.
It is still too early to tell the severity of this year’s influenza season. The Health Department is monitoring cases of influenza as well as strains that are drug-resistant. The agency will continue to provide guidance to healthcare providers throughout the season.
Scared of needles? There’s an alternative.
If you’re hesitant about getting a flu shot because of the needle, FluMist® is a nasal spray vaccine for healthy people between the ages of 2 and 49. Your doctor can tell you whether FluMist® is right for you.
Where to get vaccinated
Influenza outbreaks have occurred as late as May in New York City. Your regular health care provider should have a good supply of flu vaccine, so call and set up an appointment today.
Flu shots are available at no cost at Health Department clinics. No appointment is necessary. Any New Yorker can call 311 for clinic locations and other sites where flu vaccine is being offered, or use the flu clinic locator online at www.nyc.gov/health/flu.
New York City’s Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) also offers free and low-cost flu shots and FluMist® at public hospitals throughout the city. For information, visit www.nyc.gov/html/hhc/html/services/flushots.shtml.
People ages 65 and older and those between the ages of 2 and 64 with chronic medical conditions should ask their doctor about the pneumococcal vaccine (commonly referred to as the ‘pneumonia vaccine’).