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The flu is here and it’s not too late to get vaccinated

Flu season was declared “widespread” across New York State Thursday, including Erie County.

New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker announced that lab tests have confirmed that influenza is prevalent in 44 counties and all boroughs of New York City.

So far this season in New York, 817 flu-related hospitalizations have been reported statewide, and no reports of pediatric deaths from flu. Over the last three flu seasons, 26 children have died from the flu.

The declaration means that health care workers who aren’t vaccinated against influenza must now wear surgical or procedure masks in areas where patients are typically present.

“Health care workers play a vital role in containing the spread of the flu,” Dr. Zucker said. “Although flu shots are a safe and effective way to reduce the risk for flu, not all health care workers choose to get vaccinated. By requiring those who are unvaccinated to wear masks when they’re around patients, we’re doing what we can to protect the most vulnerable, which includes the sick and the elderly.”

Flu season occurs primarily from October through May, often peaking in February.

Health officials reminded the public that it’s not too late to get vaccinated. The Health Department recommends that everyone six months of age or older receive a flu vaccination. This year’s strain covers the most common circulating strains for the flu.