NYC on course to have worst flu season in decades; why you need a flu shot and to take off from work

LONG ISLAND CITY, Queens — New York City is on course to have its worst flu epidemic in decades, according to statistics released Tuesday by the health department.

The health commissioner along with the City Council's health committee chairperson and the consumer affairs commissioner sent out warnings to the public and offered advice regarding ways to assure New Yorkers that they can safely combat the sickness.

"This year is particularly bad," said Dr. Mary T. Bassett, the New York City health commissioner.

Mark Levine, the City Council heath committee chair, stated the case even more strongly.

"More people are dying from the flu and its complications in the city every year than die from homicides, car crashes and opioids combined," he said at an afternoon news conference at the Department of Health headquarters.

Also at the news conference, the health commissioner confirmed that two children -- Amely Baez, 8, of Corona, Queens, and another child, who authorities won't identify -- died recently from flu complications in New York City.

One detail about their deaths that the city will disclose applies to every child.

"Not speaking to these individual cases, we see very few children who have fatal flu that have been vaccinated,” Bassett said. “The majority are not vaccinated.”

It's why the city is encouraging residents to get a flu shot and to make sure their children are immunized.

The city reported good news on that front.

"We are seeing an uptick in vaccinations being reported to the registry" of pediatric vaccination for flu, Bassett said.

Another positive item overall, according to city leaders, is that because of the city's paid sick leave law, residents have the right to stay home from work if they're sick.

Lorelei Salas, the city's consumer affairs commissioner, emphasized the program for New Yorkers at Tuesday's news conference.

PIX11 News, however, pointed out that many workers in the city may feel their bosses won't let them take off, even if they're sick.

"If you try to take a sick day and your boss doesn't let you, you file a complaint with us," Salas said. "We've collected over $6.1 million in restitution for unpaid sick days and in fines."

To file a complaint, Salas said, all a person needs to do is call 311, or click here.

Flu season runs through May.