State Health Commissioner Declares Influenza is Prevalent in New York State

Unvaccinated Healthcare Workers in Healthcare and Residential Facilities Must Now Wear Masks

DOH Reminds New Yorkers to Get the Influenza Vaccine – It's Not Too Late

Find Locations Where You Can Get the Flu Shot Near You Here

ALBANY, N.Y. (December 5, 2019) - New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker today declared that influenza is now prevalent in New York State. This announcement puts into effect a regulation requiring that healthcare workers who are not vaccinated against influenza wear surgical or procedure masks in areas where patients are typically present.

"Getting vaccinated remains the best way for all New Yorkers to protect against the flu, and it is vital for caregivers who come in contact with patients to get vaccinated to help prevent the spread of flu," said New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. "The requirement that unvaccinated healthcare personnel wear a mask is intended to protect patients from getting the flu because healthcare workers can pose a risk to vulnerable patients by transmitting influenza, which often causes serious complications."

The Regulation for Prevention of Influenza Transmission first went into effect during the 2013-14 influenza season. It requires unvaccinated health care workers in certain healthcare facilities regulated by the New York State Department of Health to wear surgical or procedure masks during those times when the Commissioner declares that influenza is prevalent in New York State.

Flu activity in the state is now considered to be widespread, with laboratory-confirmed cases in 42 counties and all boroughs of New York City. So far this season in New York, 691 flu-related hospitalizations and one flu-associated pediatric death have been reported. Over the last three seasons, there have been 20 flu-associated pediatric deaths in New York and an average of 18,352 flu-related hospitalizations each flu season. Flu season occurs primarily from October through May.

Influenza activity data is available on the New York State Flu Tracker. The Flu Tracker is a dashboard on the New York State Health Connector that provides timely information about local, regional and statewide influenza activity.Click herefor a video demonstration of how you can use New York State Flu Tracker.

The State Health Department recommends that everyone six months of age or older receive an influenza vaccination. The vaccine is especially important for people at high risk for complications from influenza, including children under age 2, pregnant women and adults over age 65. People with preexisting conditions such as asthma and heart disease are also at greater risk, as are individuals with weakened immune systems due to disease or medications such as chemotherapy or chronic steroid use. Since influenza virus can spread easily by coughing or sneezing, it is also important that family members and people in regular contact with high risk individuals get an influenza vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conduct studies each year to determine how effective each year's vaccine is at protecting against influenza-related illness and while the effectiveness can vary from year to year, studies show that the vaccine remains the most effective way to protect public health. Additionally, studies show that the influenza vaccine can make the illness milder in certain cases where an individual was vaccinated but still contracted influenza.

Most health insurance plans cover influenza vaccines. Individuals and families without health insurance should check with their county health department to find out if local clinics will be held to provide free or low-cost vaccinations. Children two years of age and older and adults may also be able to get their influenza vaccine at a local pharmacy.

For additional information about influenza, including how it is monitored in New York State, visit the Department of Health web page at: