Having the flu or taking care of someone ailing from it can be agonizing and miserable. Sore throats, nausea, drowsiness, fever, sneezing and coughing are just some of the uncomfortable symptoms hitting our schools, day care centers, workplaces and other areas with a lot of people.
And this year’s flu season is proving more stubborn and severe than usual — so much so that Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently declared a public health emergency for the state.
In his declaration, Cuomo said this has been the worst season for influenza in at least four years, with all 57 counties statewide and all five boroughs of New York City reporting more than 20,000 cases so far. That’s by far greater than the 4,404 positive lab tests reported during last year’s flu season, which typically runs from September through late March.
Local hospitals and nursing homes have had to restrict or ban visitation at some point in the last few months because of the flu, which hits the youngest and oldest in our community particularly hard, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Luckily, under Cuomo’s declaration, pharmacists can now administer flu vaccines to patients between 6 months and 18 years of age, suspending a state law that only allowed pharmacists to vaccinate those 18 and older.
We recommend not only vaccinating your children against the flu, but also yourself. It is never too late to get a flu shot, and doing so can help combat the virus’ spread. Contrary to reports that the vaccine is not working, local health professionals said the shot will prevent about 62 percent of people from getting the flu, while the rest will face a milder case than they otherwise would. Keep in mind that a vaccine takes two weeks to fully take effect.
Because of the quick mutation of the flu virus and strains, the vaccine must change every year to be a good match to fight the illness. The CDC says this year’s batch is working well against the strain hitting us now.
In addition to getting the vaccine, take common-sense precautions, such as washing your hands, coughing and sneezing into your elbow and not touching your eyes, nose and mouth, since the viruses travel through air and by contact. Using alcohol-based sanitizer after touching common surfaces — especially door knobs, cafeteria tables, toys and desks — also can be helpful, as the virus can survive on hard surfaces for as long as 48 hours and cloth as long as 12 hours.
And remember that an important way to protect your friends, co-workers and others is to stay home if you are feeling sick. They may well thank you later for your consideration.