Total flu cases were up again in New York state last week, though the number of people hospitalized dropped for the first time in weeks.
In what's already the worst flu season in more than a decade, there were 16,804 cases confirmed by lab testing for the week ending Feb. 10, up 7 percent from the week before, according to the state Health Department weekly report. There were 2,409 people hospitalized for the week, down 3 percent from the week before. The actual number of cases is higher, since only laboratory-confirmed cases are in the state statistics.
Flu remains widespread in the state and nation, with every county in the state seeing cases. Most counties in the Capital Region experienced more cases than a week earlier, though Schenectady County saw a significant decrease.
"As the number of flu cases continues to rise, I urge all New Yorkers to take every action to protect themselves and their loved one from this epidemic," said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who for more than a month has been issuing weekly updates on the flu and urging people to get vaccinated. "We are doing everything we can to ensure the availability and affordability of the flu vaccine, and I encourage everyone to stay vigilant and get vaccinated."
In a year when there's been a lot of concern about the flu vaccine's effectiveness, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report Thursday that said the vaccine is about 36 percent effective for adults, but is about 59 percent effective for children ages 6 months to 18 years. Health experts say that even when the vaccine doesn't prevent the flu, it can lessen its length and severity.
The CDC said flu is widespread in the 48 contiguous states as well as Puerto Rico, and 63 children have been killed by the flu, though the largest number of people hospitalized is those over age 65.
"Flu season is not over yet and it's not too late to get vaccinated," state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said. "Statistics show that the vaccine is especially effective for young children, so I urge you to get your young children vaccinated today; it could save lives."
To date, there have been five pediatric flu deaths in New York state. State officials said 11,036 children have been diagnosed with the flu since the start of the flu season, and 926 have been hospitalized.
The state Health Department said there are some local shortages of anti-viral medications like Tamiflu, which can help if administered in the first couple of days, but it is working to address the shortages. New York City newspapers have reported a shortage in Brooklyn.
By the numbers
|Cases, week ending Feb. 10||Cases, week ending Feb. 3||Cases, season to date|
|State outside NYC||10,830||9,652||44,071|
|New York City||5,974||6,096||25,304|
Source: State Health Department