Flu emergency declared in NY; 20K cases in state

January 12, 2013

New York's governor declared a public health emergency Saturday for the state because of the severity of the flu season, as officials across the U.S. grapple with the worst flu outbreak in several years.

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's executive order suspends for the next month the state law that limits the authority of pharmacists to administer immunizing agents only to individuals 18 years of age or older. Pharmacists now will also be allowed to administer to patients between 6 months and 18 years of age.

The order comes as nearly 20,000 cases of influenza have been reported in New York state this season. That's more than four times the 4,400 positive reported all of last season.

Health officials report that the is now widespread in all but three states. There was one bit of good news Friday with the number of hard-hit areas declining.

The in the U.S. got under way a month early, in December, driven by a strain that tends to make people sicker. That led to worries that it might be a bad season, following one of the mildest flu seasons in recent memory.

The latest numbers do show that the flu surpassed an "epidemic" threshold last week. That is based on deaths from pneumonia and in 122 U.S. cities. However, it's not unusual—the epidemic level varies at different times of the year, and it was breached earlier this flu season, in October and November.

And there's a hint that the flu season may already have peaked in some spots, like in the South. Still, officials there and elsewhere are bracing for more sickness.

Despite the early start, health officials say it's not too late to get a flu shot. The vaccine is considered a good—though not perfect—protection against getting really sick from the flu.

Flu was widespread in 47 states last week, up from 41 the week before, the said on Friday. The only states without widespread flu were California, Mississippi and Hawaii.

The number of hard-hit states fell to 24 from 29, where larger numbers of people were treated for flu-like illness. Now off that list: Florida, Arkansas and South Carolina in the South, the first region hit this flu season.

Recent flu reports included holiday weeks when some doctor's offices were closed, so it will probably take a couple more weeks to get a better picture, CDC officials said Friday. Experts say so far say the season looks moderate.

"Only time will tell how moderate or severe this flu season will be," CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said Friday in a teleconference with reporters.

The government doesn't keep a running tally of adult deaths from the flu, but estimates that it kills about 24,000 people in an average year. Nationally, 20 children have died from the flu this season.

Flu vaccinations are recommended for everyone 6 months or older. Since the swine flu epidemic in 2009, vaccination rates have increased in the U.S., but more than half of Americans haven't gotten this year's vaccine.

Nearly 130 million doses of flu vaccine were distributed this year, and at least 112 million have been used. Vaccine is still available, but supplies may have run low in some locations, officials said.

To find a shot, "you may have to call a couple places," said Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, who tracks the flu in Iowa.

In midtown Manhattan, Hyrmete Sciuto got a flu shot Friday at a drugstore. She skipped it in recent years, but news reports about the flu this week worried her.

During her commute from Edgewater, New Jersey, by ferry and bus, "I have people coughing in my face," she said. "I didn't want to risk it this year."

The vaccine is no guarantee, though, that people won't get sick. On Friday, CDC officials said a recent study of more than 1,100 people has concluded the current flu vaccine is 62 percent effective. That means the average vaccinated person is 62 percent less likely to get a case of flu that sends them to the doctor, compared to people who don't get the vaccine. That's in line with other years.

The vaccine is reformulated annually, and this year's is a good match to the viruses going around.

The flu's early arrival coincided with spikes in flu-like illnesses caused by other bugs, including a new norovirus that causes vomiting and diarrhea, or what is commonly known as "stomach flu." Those illnesses likely are part of the heavy traffic in hospital and clinic waiting rooms, CDC officials said.

Europeans also are suffering an early flu season, though a milder strain predominates there. China, Japan, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Algeria and the Republic of Congo have also reported increasing flu.

Flu usually peaks in midwinter. Symptoms can include fever, cough, runny nose, head and body aches and fatigue. Some people also suffer vomiting and diarrhea, and some develop pneumonia or other severe complications.

Most people with flu have a mild illness. But people with severe symptoms need to see a doctor. They may be given antiviral drugs or other medications to ease symptoms.

Some shortages have been reported for children's liquid Tamiflu, a prescription medicine used to treat flu. But say adult Tamiflu pills are available, and pharmacists can convert those to doses for children.

Explore further: Flu season off to latest start in decades

More information: CDC flu: www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm

shares

Related Stories

Flu season off to latest start in decades

February 17, 2012
(AP) -- Health officials say the flu season is finally here - the slowest start in nearly 25 years.

Flu more widespread in US; eases off in some areas

January 11, 2013
Health officials say flu is more widespread across the nation, but the number of hard-hit states has declined.

US flu season starts early, could be bad, CDC says

December 3, 2012
Health officials say flu season is off to its earliest start in nearly 10 years—and it could be a bad one.

Flu season came early but too soon to say it's bad

January 10, 2013
The flu season arrived early in the U.S. this year, but health officials and experts say it's too early to say this will be a bad one.

Death toll rises as flu epidemic grips US

January 12, 2013
The death toll from a flu outbreak gripping the United States has reached epidemic levels and it will be at least several weeks before the outbreak abates, health officials said Friday.

Recommended for you

Google searches can be used to track dengue in underdeveloped countries

July 20, 2017
An analytical tool that combines Google search data with government-provided clinical data can quickly and accurately track dengue fever in less-developed countries, according to new research published in PLOS Computational ...

MRSA emerged years before methicillin was even discovered

July 19, 2017
Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) emerged long before the introduction of the antibiotic methicillin into clinical practice, according to a study published in the open access journal Genome Biology. It was ...

New test distinguishes Zika from similar viral infections

July 18, 2017
A new test is the best-to-date in differentiating Zika virus infections from infections caused by similar viruses. The antibody-based assay, developed by researchers at UC Berkeley and Humabs BioMed, a private biotechnology ...

'Superbugs' study reveals complex picture of E. coli bloodstream infections

July 18, 2017
The first large-scale genetic study of Escherichia coli (E. coli) cultured from patients with bloodstream infections in England showed that drug resistant 'superbugs' are not always out-competing other strains. Research by ...

Ebola virus can persist in monkeys that survived disease, even after symptoms disappear

July 17, 2017
Ebola virus infection can be detected in rhesus monkeys that survive the disease and no longer show symptoms, according to research published by Army scientists in today's online edition of the journal Nature Microbiology. ...

Mountain gorillas have herpes virus similar to that found in humans

July 13, 2017
Scientists from the University of California, Davis, have detected a herpes virus in wild mountain gorillas that is very similar to the Epstein-Barr virus in humans, according to a study published today in the journal Scientific ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.