New York governor declares public health emergency over flu epidemic

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency in response to the seasonal flu outbreak, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now calling an epidemic.

Cuomo issued an executive order allowing pharmacists to administer the flu vaccine to patients between six months and 18 years of age for the next 30 days. State education law normally limits the authority of pharmacists to administer vaccines to those above the age of 18.

"We are experiencing the worst flu season since at least 2009, and influenza activity in New York State is widespread, with cases reported in all 57 counties and all five boroughs of New York City," Cuomo said. "Therefore, I have directed my Administration, the State Health Department and others to marshal all needed resources to address this public health emergency and remove all barriers to ensure that all New Yorkers - children and adults alike - have access to critically needed flu vaccines."

Cuomo is urging New Yorkers who have yet to receive a flu shot to schedule one as soon as possible. More than 19,128 influenza cases have been reported in New York this season and the number of cases continues to rise sharply.

The State Health Department has been tasked to work closely with county, regional and private healthcare partners to launch a promotional campaign in support of vaccination. The department will continuously disseminate press advisories and stage media events. It has also planned to use social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.