(PRWEB) January 15, 2013
Infectious disease experts at The Mount Sinai Medical Center urge those who are unvaccinated to get flu shots from their physicians or local pharmacies.
On Saturday, Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a public health emergency for New York State due to a flu epidemic. Nearly 20,000 cases of influenza have been reported, which is four times the number of cases reported last year. As of January 5, 2013, the New York State Department of Health received reports of nearly 3,000 patients hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed influenza, compared to 1,169 total hospitalizations in 2011.
Mount Sinai Emergency Department visits have increased 20 percent and primary care practices and clinics have been inundated with patients. “Due to a growing number of influenza cases and nearby hospital closures, Mount Sinai is experiencing an increase in patient volume,” said David L. Reich, MD, Interim President and Chief Operating Officer of The Mount Sinai Medical Center. “Pediatric and adult internal medicine clinic hours have been extended to meet the demand.”
“This is one of the most severe flu seasons New York City has experienced in several years, and is in stark contrast to last year which was especially mild,” said Kevin Baumlin, MD, Associate Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Experts urge patients who are experiencing shortness of breath, difficulty drinking fluids, and high fevers to see their own physicians. Tylenol or ibuprofen can help with fever and pain.
Those with fever, body aches and fatigue should stay home until fever is gone for 24 hours before they return to work or school. Those who are sick should cover their cough to prevent the spread of the virus and good hand hygiene is recommended for all.
“We will administer the vaccine as needed to patients and any remaining unvaccinated staff,” said Fran Wallach, MD, Hospital Epidemiologist and Associate Professor of Infectious Diseases at the Mount Sinai Hospital. “Getting a flu shot can help prevent the flu or make symptoms less severe,” Dr. Wallach added. People who regularly come in contact with individuals at high risk (young children, people 65 or older, people with certain underlying medical conditions and pregnant women) are urged to get the flu shot.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has been testing this year’s known influenza viruses and matching them to three viruses included in the 2012-2013 flu vaccine. This year’s vaccine provides protection against the strain of influenza seen in the community.
In order to protect their health and the health of patients, Mount Sinai continues to encourage all personnel to get vaccinated. Personnel who are not vaccinated are required to wear surgical masks while in patient care areas.
For more information on the flu, go to http://www.mountsinaifpa.org/patient-care/practices/primary-care/flu-information.