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Photo credit: abc.com

Influenza, which usually peaks between January and March, can be deadly for young children, pregnant women, people with chronic illness and people over 65

Photo credit: abc.com

As the city faces one of the coldest winters in decades, officials are urging New Yorkers to get their flu shots. Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory viral illness that is particularly dangerous for young children, pregnant women, people with chronic medical conditions and elderly people. The public-health warning comes after NYC reported the first flu-related death of a child in the beginning of January.

“Getting the flu is miserable, and it can be deadly for certain New Yorkers,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “The flu vaccine is widely available, and I urge New Yorkers to get their flu shot today.”

More New Yorkers die from the flu and pneumonia, a common complication of influenza, than from any other infection. According to data from the NYC Health Department, 2,094 New Yorkers died from the flu and related complications in 2015. About 90 percent of influenza-related deaths are among people aged 65 years and older.

While an annual flu vaccination is recommended for all people aged six months and older, it is especially recommended for those at risk of developing influenza-related complications including children under five, pregnant women, people with diabetes, heart or lung disease and people over 65. Health care workers and people who live or work with people at high risk of influenza complications also need a flu vaccine to avoid infecting others.

Despite the official warnings: the influenza vaccination rate of NYC children remains below the national coverage goal of 70 percent. According to the health department, more than one-third of the children were not vaccinated last season. And also adults continued to get vaccinated at lower rates: 35 percent for people aged 18-49 years, 48 percent for people aged 50-64 years, and 65 percent for people aged 65 years and older.

Officials insist: aside from helping to prevent the pain and misery of influenza, a flu shot reduces the risk of hospitalizations among high-risk groups such as pregnant women, who have a higher risk of being hospitalized if they get the flu. Moreover, a vaccine not only can protect them but also their infant by passing on the protective antibodies to them.

And even after the flu season has arrived, a flu shot can still provide immunity and mitigate the symptoms and complications should one contract the virus.

“As we have seen in many other years at this time, flu activity is on the rise. The good news is that it’s not too late to get a flu shot,” said Bassett.

The vaccine, typically free or covered by a co-pay, is widely available at commercial pharmacies, doctors’ offices and city clinics.

For more information about where to get vaccinated, call 311, visit nyc.gov/flu  or text “flu” to 877877.


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