Flu Surveillance Team Called For In New York Amid Historic Breakout

Editor's note: This story was previously accompanied by a photo of Dr. Karen Leiser from the Scarsdale Medical Group. Neither had any involvement with the story.

This year's flu season has been particularly pervasive around the country.
This year's flu season has been particularly pervasive around the country. Photo Credit: Provided

As New Yorkers continue to battle the worst reported flu season in more than a decade, Sen. Charles Schumer is calling for a “domestic flu surveillance team’ from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In order to battle the “flu epidemic,” Schumer announced this week that he is calling on experts to help locals track which flu strains are hitting, which treatment are most effective and how to make a plan to fight influenza in all New Yorkers.

Schumer noted that flu cases are up 54 percent this week and more than 20,000 cases have been reported statewide. The senator said “the CDC flu team could be the medicine New York needs to tackle the virus’ spread.” 

“A New York-specific flu surveillance team would help take the state’s temperature on the epidemic and help break its fever,”  Schumer stated. “With record-setting highs this season, it’s absolutely critical that New York have the resources it needs to track the flu’s path, gather intelligence and combat this powerful virus. The CDC should immediately designate a special domestic flu surveillance team for New York to hone in on the virus and augment the great work of our local hospitals and health departments.”

According to the CDC, the flu results in 31.4 million outpatient visits and 200,000 hospitalizations across the country annually. While flu seasons are unpredictable and can vary in severity each year, there are between 3,000 and 49,000 influenza deaths nationwide. This causes an estimated annual $87 billion total economic burden to U.S. businesses.

Over the past four years, 25 patients have died from the flu in New York State alone. Eight of those deaths occurred during last year’s flu season. As of January 18th, the weekly rate of New Yorkers hospitalized with influenza was the highest it had ever been since the Department of Health began reporting in 2004. So far this season, 5,267 people in New York have been hospitalized as a result of the flu, compared with 3,533 hospitalizations the prior season.

"The purpose of the CDC domestic flu surveillance team is to collect, analyze, and publish data on the impact of the flu," Schumer stated. "Specifically, the team seeks information on when and where the flu activity is occurring, determining the strain of flu circulating, detecting changes in the flu virus and measuring the impact of the virus on hospitalizations and deaths. The data gathered is used to improve and adapt the influenza vaccination and geospatial data can be used to issue public health advisories to healthcare workers about which symptoms, diagnosis and treatments to be aware of."

In a letter to CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, Schumer requested federal assistance as the state continues battling the virus, which led New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to issue an emergency order.

"New York State officials are working diligently around the clock and performing extraordinarily well given these difficult circumstances. However, given the unprecedented nature of this flu season, I am requesting that you send in a CDC flu surveillance team to collect and analyze additional data on how best to target the flu in New York, and coordinate with New York State and New York City officials to provide them with all federal resources they need to combat this flu epidemic. It is imperative that we commit all and every available resource to combat and mitigate the widespread effect of the flu on New Yorkers this season."

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