Nassau and Suffolk counties will provide free flu vaccinations at clinics beginning Saturday to combat an unusually severe influenza outbreak, officials said.
In the past four days, there have been 430 new confirmed cases of the flu across Nassau, County Executive Laura Curran said at a news conference in Mineola.
Since the flu season began in October, there have been 3,864 confirmed cases countywide compared with 2,229 at this time last year. Flu season typically concludes at the end of May.
“We will continue to see a climb in the number of flu cases so this number will grow,” Curran said. “But let me be clear, it’s not too late to get a flu shot.”
Nassau will provide vaccinations to anyone over the age of 6 months Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Nassau County Department of Health, 200 County Seat Dr., Mineola.
Shots will also be available Tuesday from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at the Health Department’s WIC Office, 160 N. Franklin St., Hempstead, and on Thursday from 7:30 to 10 a.m. at the Yes We Can Community Center, 141 Garden St., Westbury.
In Suffolk, residents 4 years of age and older can get free flu shots Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, 3500 Sunrise Hwy., Great River.
Suffolk residents 6 months and older can get vaccines Tuesday from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Riverhead Library, 330 Court St., and Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. at the H. Lee Dennison Building, 100 Veterans Memorial Hwy., Hauppauge.
“We ask residents to obtain immunization against the flu to protect not only themselves but others who may be especially vulnerable to the flu, especially infants who are too young to be immunized, pregnant women, older residents and those with other health conditions that make them more vulnerable to flu,” said Suffolk Health Commissioner James Tomarken.
The moves come after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo directed the state health commissioner Thursday to authorize emergency funding to New York’s 62 counties in response to the overwhelming number of flu diagnoses, which are continuing to rise exponentially.
The latest state figures show a 35 percent jump in laboratory-confirmed flu cases and a 2 percent rise in hospitalizations statewide since last week.
All told, there have been 15,753 confirmed influenza cases and 2,349 people hospitalized, according to the most recent figures available from the state Department of Health.
Those totals, reported Thursday, were the highest weekly numbers in both categories since reporting on flu statistics began in 2004.
Nassau Health Commissioner Lawrence Eisenstein said the county has not seen this many flu cases through January in the past decade.
While there have been no reported pediatric fatalities attributed directly to influenza, Eisenstein said it’s “reasonable” to assume that the flu has been at least a contributing factor in some deaths in the county.
“This is not something left to chance,” he said. “Not something to play around with. Please protect our children.”
Cuomo’s latest action will help expand access to flu vaccines across New York and augment other recent measures of his.
Cuomo’s announcement directs local health departments to refocus their flu-protection outreach on vulnerable populations: day care centers, nursing homes, senior centers and homeless shelters.
The directive instructs the agencies to re-emphasize the need for flu vaccinations, provide targeted education about the signs and symptoms of the flu and identify and assist key populations with low vaccination rates.