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Influenza no longer prevalent in the state

ALBANY - New York State Acting Commissioner of Health Howard Zucker, M.D., J.D., declared influenza is no longer prevalent in New York State. This declaration means that New York State healthcare workers who are not vaccinated against influenza are no longer required by State regulation to wear masks in areas where patients are typically present.

The "Prevention of Influenza Transmission by Healthcare and Residential Facility and Agency Personnel" regulation became effective upon publication in the State Register on July 31, 2013 after it was adopted by the New York State Public Health and Health Planning Council. The regulation requires healthcare personnel who have not been vaccinated against influenza and work in certain facilities and agencies regulated by the State Department of Health to wear masks while influenza is prevalent in the New York state. Former State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H., declared influenza prevalent in the state on December 19, 2013.

The 2013-14 influenza season in New York State was unusual in that there were two consecutive waves of elevated influenza activity. The first wave consisted primarily of influenza A (H1N1) cases. This wave began in December, peaked the week ending January 17, 2014, and continued into February. The majority of cases in the second wave were influenza B. The second wave began in early March, peaked the week ending April 5, 2014, and continued into May. This has resulted in continued influenza activity, above what is normally seen during this time of the year. While it is not unusual to have more than one influenza virus type circulate during a season, it is atypical to have high numbers of cases reported during the latter part of the season.

Preventing influenza transmission from health care personnel to patients is a patient safety priority. Health care personnel are at increased risk of acquiring influenza because of their contact with ill patients, and workers who are ill can also transmit influenza to their patients. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly recommend that healthcare workers be vaccinated for influenza, vaccination rates are usually far below the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Healthy People 2020 goal of 90 percent. As an alternative for persons who cannot be vaccinated or who refuse vaccination, mask wear is expected to reduce transmission.

For more information about influenza, please visit the DOH website at www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/influenza/seasonal/