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CDC Targets United Way Of Westchester, Putnam For Pandemic Flu Response

The United Way of Westchester and Putnam has been named as one of 27 emergency call centers for the CDC nationwide.
The United Way of Westchester and Putnam has been named as one of 27 emergency call centers for the CDC nationwide. Photo Credit: United Way of Westchester and Putnam

Amid one of the worst flu seasons in recorded history, a local organization has been chosen as an emergency call center by the Centers for Disease Control.

The United Way of Westchester and Putnam has been chosen as one of 27 call centers nationwide that will participate in “Flu on Call” a national network of triage phone lines that will be staffed by trained medical professionals with information on how to help battle the pandemic.

In the past week, there were nearly 8,000 confirmed influenza cases and more than 1,500 New Yorkers were hospitalized statewide with the flu, the highest weekly number since health officials began reporting those statistics in 2004.

Officials said that Flu on Call is designed to assist in the management of the distribution of anti-viral medications designed to battle the virus. Flu on Call will utilize the United Way’s 2-1-1 helpline, which provides Hudson Valley residents with answers to community needs. The first simulated drill for the new services have been scheduled for early May.

The flu epidemic has been so bad that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a disaster emergency allowing pharmacists to administer vaccines to children and teenagers older than 2 years old.

In order to battle the “flu epidemic,” Sen. Charles 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.”

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.

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