Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a public health emergency in New York Saturday in response to this year’s severe flu season.
Cuomo issued an executive order allowing pharmacists to provide flu shots to patients between six months and 18. The order suspends state law that restricts pharmacists from administering the vaccinations to minors.
Two children in New York and 18 children nationwide have died of the flu this season.
To date, 19,128 cases of influenza have been reported in New York this year. Comparatively, last year, there were 4,404 positive laboratory tests for the flu.
Since Jan. 5, the state Department of Health has received reports of 2,884 patients hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed influenza, compared to 1,169 total hospitalizations in 2011.
“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 in a statement. “Therefore, I have directed my Administration, the State Health Department and others to marshal all needed resources to address this public health emergency.”
Flu shots are available at local health departments and pharmacies.
The health department recommends that everyone six months or older receive a flu vaccination. Infants under six months cannot get a flu vaccination.
“Since the flu often continues into late winter or early spring, vaccinations at this time of year offer important protection,” the governor’s office said.
Symptoms of the flu include fever, chills, severe headache, muscle aches, cough and sore throat. The flu virus poses the most serious risk for those younger than 2, older than 50, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems or chronic medical conditions.