NYC Health Department Launches FluLine

November 19, 2009 Updated: November 19, 2009

NEW YORK—Starting on Thursday, New Yorkers with symptoms of influenza can consult a nurse by calling 311.

Callers with symptoms of influenza will be connected to registered nurses, who will provide information and advice on whether to seek care. For concerned patients who don’t have or can’t reach a regular health care provider, NYC FluLine is being billed as an alternative to standing in line at a hospital emergency department.

“The city is activating the NYC FluLine to help New Yorkers decide if they need medical care for symptoms that might be a sign of influenza,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, New York City Health commissioner. “If you think you might have influenza, and you can’t reach a regular health care provider, try calling NYC FluLine before going to an emergency room. It may save you the time and cost.”

The call-center nurses will not make diagnoses or prescribe treatments, but they will advise callers about whether to see a doctor or stay home.

New York City is currently experiencing less influenza activity than the rest of the northeast region, according to the Health Department. Levels of reported illness are far below those seen during the H1N1 outbreak of spring 2009.

“But the H1N1 virus is circulating, and the Health Department’s surveillance systems show that influenza-like illness has increased steadily since early September,” the Department warns, ever vigilant.

“Though the current rate doesn’t approach that seen in May and June, it is well above normal for this time of year. The number of hospitalizations and deaths has also risen since September (though both numbers are still low), and prescriptions for antiviral medication have risen sharply in recent weeks.”

Despite the signs of increased H1N1 activity, the Health Department concedes that it has yet to see any uptick in seasonal influenza this fall.