New York State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah said on Dec. 19 that influenza has become prevalent in the state, and non-vaccinated health care personnel are required to wear a surgical masks to prevent exposing patients to the flu.
"Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect against influenza, and it is important for individuals who come in contact with patients to be vaccinated to help prevent the spread of flu," Shah said. "For those who have not been vaccinated, this regulation is intended to provide patients and caregivers an added layer of protection."
Shah said health care workers pose a risk of transmitting influenza to patients, and wearing the mask has an added benefit of protecting workers from contracting the virus from patients who are not vaccinated.
The regulatory requirement applies to settings regulated by the Department of Health, including hospitals, nursing homes, diagnostic and treatment centers, certified home health agencies and hospices.
More than 45 counties and all boroughs of New York City have laboratory confirmed cases of influenza. The mask requirement remains in effect until the commissioner announces that influenza is no longer prevalent.
"The early reports of flu cases in New York further emphasize the importance of people getting a flu vaccination now" Shah said. "A flu vaccination is a safe and effective way to reduce your risk for flu and also protect the health of your family and friends."