DUTCHESS COUNTY, N.Y. -- The flu bug is biting all over New York, including Dutchess County, state and local health officials declared last week.
In light of the situation, they said, all health care workers who are not vaccinated against influenza are being required to wear surgical masks when they are around patients.
According to a report in the Poughkeepsie Journal, Dutchess County, which has a population of 300,000, recorded six to 15 cases of the flu in late January and early February, while in the middle of January there was, at most, about six recorded cases.
The Poughkeepsie Journal also reported that Dutchess Assistant Health Commissioner Cathi Tegtmeier has urged folks to be vigilant in order to prevent the spread of the flu, which can be dangerous for the elderly, the very young and those with serious health conditions.
"Health care workers play a vital role in containing the spread of the flu," said Dr. Howard Zucker, the state health commissioner, in a press release.
By requiring masks, Zucker said, the state is doing what it can to “protect the most vulnerable, which includes the sick and the elderly.”
Zucker said there are confirmed cases of the flu in 44 counties and all boroughs of New York City.
So far this season in New York, Zucker said in the release, 817 flu-related hospitalizations have been reported, but no reports of children dying from the flu.
Over the last three seasons, Zucker said, there have been 26 pediatric flu deaths in New York and an average of 9,966 flu-related hospitalizations each season.
The flu season occurs primarily from October through May, but often peaks in February, Zucker said.
Health officials say it is not too late to get vaccinated and there are ample amounts of the vaccine available.
This year's vaccine, Zucker said, covers the most common circulating strains for the flu.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.