Governor Cuomo's declaration of a flu emergency in New York State accentuates the importance of precautions and increases access to flu shots. Special needs children are frequently susceptible to illness and the recent outbreak of flu is a matter of concern for anyone, but especially the caretakers of people with disabilities.
In light of two pediatric deaths and at least 10 adults, Governor Cuomo lifted the ban on pharmacists administering the vaccine to children. For thirty days, a pharmacist will be able to inoculate anyone from six months to 18 years, which prior to the governor's action, pharmacies could only vaccinate adults defined as 18 years and older.
The New York State Commissioner of Health Nirav Shah M.D. indicates the state has no shortage of the vaccine. The vaccine is readily available at pharmacies and local county health departments and if cost is a factor, the county offices offer a sliding scale fee schedule. The vaccine was developed to protect against H1N1, H3N2 and B influenza virus strains and although it is not 100% effective against all flu viruses, health professionals indicate it can lessen the severity of flu symptoms.
It does take two weeks to get full protection of the vaccine but additional proactive measures to prevent infection during the flu emergency in New York State include:
- Washing hands - This is the best defense not only against the flu but the common cold and the various "bugs" that go through families, schools and communities. Along with frequent hand washing, encourage your kids to keep their hands away from their eyes, nose and mouth.
- Avoid crowds - Keeping away from large groups of people lessens exposure to the disease. School raises its own health risks, but if you can transport your own children as opposed to sending them on the school bus, it is one way to limit exposure.
- Healthy food, exercise and rest - Good food, exercise and plenty of rest will help fend off the flu and any other "bug" that might be ready to attack.
- Keep sick kids home - If the child is not feeling well, let them stay home.
By declaring a flu emergency in New York State through his Executive Order, the Governor has created more opportunities for children to be vaccinated. The recognition of increases in the numbers of people infected with the flu leads to greater awareness of healthy life styles. The greater awareness may be able to slow the transmission of the illness.
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