NEW YORK—Flu season is once again upon us, and New York City is taking serious measures to fight the influenza virus. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced the launch of the Flu Fighters Service Initiative on Wednesday, which aims to boost flu prevention efforts in the region.
As part of the program, approximately 800 volunteers are being recruited to raise public awareness about flu vaccination through a variety of community outreach events. The volunteers will distribute posters and brochures listing flu prevention measures in schools, senior centers, houses of worship, and other public places.
“Flu Fighters will address a critical area—flu prevention—serving as a needed extension of city efforts to protect the public,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “The more New Yorkers we can get to take steps to protect themselves against the flu, the better chance we have of containing any outbreak,” he added.
The volunteers will also help distribute screening forms and manage flow of persons at the weekend vaccination centers across the city, and help their family members and friends to get vaccinated.
In the first-of-its-kind strategic move, the initiative aims to mobilize volunteers to city areas with most need. Interested persons are encouraged to call 311 or visit www.nyc.gov .
The city’s comprehensive influenza prevention strategy also includes offering free flu shots and nasal spray for H1N1 prevention to elementary school students with parents’ consent. The Flu Fighter volunteers will work to raise parental awareness of the required consent forms.
Vaccinations in city schools will be offered for approximately eight weeks starting in late October. Weekend clinics will also be available for middle school and high school kids beginning in early November and lasting for approximately five weeks. The Health Department and the Department of Education have launched a vaccine distribution pilot program in six schools earlier this month.
Additional strategies deployed by the city to combat the flu include:
•Designating primary-care clinics as flu centers that can give flu shots, information and outpatient care
•Mobilizing Medical Reserve Corps volunteers that medical professionals to serve in hospitals, clinics and dispensing centers to expand treatment capacity
•Tracking rates of influenza-like illness, with Web updates posted on a daily and weekly basis
•Listing schools with five or more cases of influenza-like illnesses on a daily basis
•Launching a flu prevention campaign that includes signs, posters and classroom instruction
The Health Department cautions that the seasonal influenza vaccine does not provide immunity against H1N1 infection. A separate H1N1 vaccine will be available by injection or nasal spray.
Over 1,000 deaths due to influenza and its complications are reported in New York City on an annual basis.