Flu season is officially upon us and across the state there are more than four times as many confirmed flu cases to date as there were last year. NY1's Grace Rauh has the story.
Statewide, the number of confirmed flu cases are dramatic.
So far, there have been 19,128 confirmed flu cases in New York this year. Last year, the flu season produced only 4,404 cases in all.
"It is a serious situation," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. "It is a matter of public health."
The outbreak is driving New Yorkers in the five boroughs to the hospital in much higher numbers than the city had expected.
"We are seeing plenty of cases of flu and plenty of people sick with flu," city Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said. "Plenty of hospital emergency departments are seeing many patients, so they tend to be crowded."
City health officials say they do not actually count the number of flu cases in the five boroughs. Instead, they attempt to measure the outbreak by tracking emergency room visits made by people who look like they have the flu.
Those people account for about 5 percent of emergency room visits in the city, which is higher than past years.
But New York City is not raising the same level of alarm as other cities.
Boston's mayor, Thomas Menino, declared a public health emergency for his city on Wednesday.
"We don't see any need to declare a public health emergency," Farley said. "We want to get our message out. If you haven't had your flu shot yet and you haven't been sick, time to get it now."
Cuomo got his shot on Thursday.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg checked it off his to-do list back in October. But it does not seem to have worked. He said he may have had the flu a few weeks ago.
"Despite what the mayor said, most people are going to be protected," Farley said.
If you do have the flu, health officials say it is probably best to stay home.
An unnecessary trip to the emergency room could expose you to another illness, which might make you even sicker.
"If you don't need to go to an emergency room, don't go," Bloomberg said.