The NYC Health Department has confirmed this season's first flu-related death of a child and urges New Yorkers to get vaccinated.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2017 was one of the worst influenza seasons in decades which caused approximately 80,000 deaths and 900,000 hospitalizations in the U.S.
"All New Yorkers ages six months and older should get the influenza vaccine, especially children, pregnant women and the elderly," said Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. "By getting your flu vaccine, you are keeping yourself — and your community — healthy."
Despite continued warnings and reminders, the health department said that not enough New Yorkers are getting vaccinated. According to 2017 data, only 44 percent of adults got the flu shot; one-third of children under 5 were not vaccinated last year. The city also noted disparities in flu vaccination among different racial groups: With 38 percent, Black adults are least likely to get vaccinated, compared to 45 percent of Whites, 46 percent of Latinos and 47 percent of Asians.
Influenza is a highly contagious viral illness that is particularly dangerous for young children, pregnant women, people with chronic medical conditions and elderly people. Flu season usually starts in the late fall and lasts throughout the spring, but influenza viruses can be found year-round, and it is important to get the vaccine as early as possible, the health department emphasized.
"With another flu season upon us, I cannot stress enough how important it is for all of us to get our flu shots," said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. "The vaccine is offered at local pharmacies throughout the city, so there is no reason not to get the shot."
The health department along with city-run clinics and hospitals provide no or low-cost flu vaccines. The flu shot is also available at pharmacies, all of which take most health insurance plans without charging a co-pay. To find a location, New Yorkers can use the city's NYC Health Map, call 311 or text "flu" to 877877.