Following the most cases ever in New York State, officials are enforcing new ways to battle this year’s potentially deadly flu.

On Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order to fight the flu epidemic in New York.

The executive order allows pharmacists to administer flu shots to children ages 2 to 18. This should increase access and convenience for New Yorkers seeking the flu vaccination, officials say.

According to the governor’s office, there were nearly 8,000 confirmed cases of the flu across the state this past week. That’s the highest weekly number since reporting began in 2004.

Recently, a 10-year-old boy died from complications of the flu in the Hudson Valley.

"With flu cases reaching epidemic proportions in New York, we must do everything in our power to fight this virus and keep New Yorkers safe,” Cuomo said in a press release. "Once again, I urge all New Yorkers to help us combat this quick-spreading strain of flu and make sure they and their loved ones are vaccinated."

In hopes of raising awareness about the alarming rates of the flu, Gov. Cuomo told the New York State Department of Health to immediately expand the state's influenza public service advertising campaign.

"As number of flu cases continues to rise throughout the state, it is imperative that we make it as easy as possible for New Yorkers to get the flu vaccine to protect themselves, their families, and their communities this season.” New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said.

To receive a flu shot, contact your local health care provider or pharmacy, or find information about vaccination clinics by contacting your local health department. Flu shots may also be found through the HealthMap Vaccine Finder at www.vaccinefinder.org.

The Governor ordered the following actions to protect New Yorkers from influenza and ensure health care system capacity:

  • Issuance of Department of Financial Services guidance to health insurers to ensure that prior authorization is not a barrier to the prescribing of antiviral medications within the first 48 hours of illness.
  • Direct engagement with all New York State county health commissioners to review the four key strategies of influenza control- vaccination, rapid antiviral treatment, isolation of sick individuals, and good hand hygiene- and promote local vaccination awareness efforts.
  • Ongoing communication with all New York State hospitals and nursing homes to review capacity management strategies and the actions available to expand capacity to handle patient surge.
  • Continued monitoring of hospital capacity through survey and direct outreach to hospital leadership.

In addition to getting a flu shot and staying home when sick, the CDC recommends practicing good hand-hygiene:

  • Unlike some viruses, influenza is easily killed by soap and hot water.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds to protect yourself from germs and avoid spreading them to others.
  • Carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to use when soap and water are not available. Choose a product with at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Do not cough or sneeze into your hands. Instead, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. People with the flu are infectious for up to 7 days after symptoms begin.

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