New York declares emergency to channel flu resources

Jan 14, 2013 (CIDRAP News) – New York's governor has declared a health emergency to funnel more resources to battle high levels of flu activity, including an executive order that temporarily allows pharmacists to vaccinate children younger than 18 years old.

The office of Gov Andrew Cuomo said in a Jan 12 statement that New York's flu season has become increasingly severe, with 19,128 cases so far compared with 4,404 during the 2011-12 season. The New York State Department of Health (NYSDH) has received reports of 2,884 hospitalizations with lab-confirmed flu, along with reports of two child deaths.

The executive order allows pharmacists to give kids ages 6 months to 18 years old immunizations for the next 30 days.

New York's declaration follows a Jan 9 public health emergency for flu by Boston's mayor's office, an action that was also triggered by a surge in flu activity.

Cuomo said flu in New York is widespread, with cases reported in all 57 counties and all five boroughs of New York City. "Therefore, I have directed my Administration, the State Health Department and others to marshal all needed resources to address this public health emergency and remove all barriers to ensure that all New Yorkers—children and adults alike—have access to critically needed flu vaccines."

The governor's office urged people to get vaccinated and announced that the NYSDH and its partners will launch a broad campaign, including messages through social media, to promote immunization.

Nationally, some flu markers are declining while others are increasing, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Jan 11 in its most recent update. In the first few months of the flu season, activity started rising earlier than usual and is currently reported as widespread by 47 states.

The brisk pace of flu activity contrasts with last season, which got a late start and had a mild impact.

Canada reports drop in some flu markers
Canadian health officials reported a similar pattern in their most recent flu surveillance report.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) reported a decline in the number of respiratory tests that were positive for influenza and a dip in the percentage of doctors' visits for flulike illness. Those figures, though, were still running higher than the expected level for this time of year.

As in the United States, H3N2 viruses are dominating Canada's flu season, with very few 2009 H1N1 viruses detected. However, the country is reporting less influenza B than levels seen south of the border. Both countries are reporting far less H1N1 circulation than is Europe.

Fifteen regions in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador reported widespread activity, up from two reported the week before.

See also:

Jan 12 Gov Cuomo press release

Jan 11 PHAC weekly flu surveillance report

This week's top reads