NEW YORK (WABC) -- The New York State Health Commissioner declared Thursday that influenza is prevalent in the state.
Under the declaration. unvaccinated healthcare workers must wear surgical or procedure masks in all areas where patients are present.
Officials are urging residents to get the flu vaccine.
"Getting vaccinated remains the best way for all New Yorkers to protect against the flu, and it is vital for caregivers who come in contact with patients to get vaccinated to help prevent the spread of flu," said New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. "The requirement that unvaccinated healthcare personnel wear a mask is intended to protect patients from getting the flu because healthcare workers can pose a risk to vulnerable patients by transmitting influenza, which often causes serious complications."
Flu activity in the state is now considered to be widespread, with laboratory-confirmed cases in 42 counties and all boroughs of New York City, the health department said.
So far this season in New York, 691 flu-related hospitalizations and one flu-associated pediatric death have been reported.
Over the last three seasons, there have been 20 flu-associated pediatric deaths in New York and an average of 18,352 flu-related hospitalizations each flu season. Flu season occurs primarily from October through May.
The State Health Department recommends that everyone six months of age or older receive an influenza vaccination.