Astorino Talks Flu with Health Commissioner Dr. Sherlita AmlerFeb. 1, 2017 - With Westchester entering the high flu season, County Executive Robert P. Astorino urged residents today to do four things to protect themselves, their families and the people around them from the flu and other seasonal viruses like Norovirus.

“Get a flu shot if you haven’t already,” Astorino said. “It’s not too late. A flu vaccine is your best defense against the flu and flu shots are readily available at pharmacies, supermarkets, doctors’ offices and by appointment at our Health Department clinics in White Plains and Yonkers. Follow mom’s advice to wash your hands thoroughly and often. When you have a fever, diarrhea or vomiting, stay home to avoid spreading illness to others. And finally, clean household surfaces with a bleach solution if anyone in your home is sick.”

In a typical year, Westchester experiences roughly 90,000 cases of influenza and 60,000 cases of the Norovirus during the flu season, which runs from October to as late as May.

On Tuesday, the Federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said New York is experiencing epidemic flu activity. The latest figures nationally show influenza levels, entering the “significant” level with three percent of doctors’ visits being attributed to the flu. A two percent level of doctors’ visits is considered normal; sevent to eight percent is considered a “bad” season.

At a news conference in White Plains, Astorino and Health Commissioner Sherlita Amler, MD, said they were calling attention to disease prevention now because viruses flourish in the winter, when people spend more time indoors together and because February and March are the height of the flu season, according to the CDC. Dr. Amler said flu symptoms include fever, body aches, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache, chills and fatigue, while norovirus symptoms include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

“Everyone six months and older should get a flu shot each year to protect not only yourself, but the youngest and oldest residents around us,” said Dr. Amler. “You can have the flu and not know it and pass it along to infants, young children and seniors, who are much more vulnerable to flu complications. Right now, Westchester is tracking for a normal flu season, but we still have a few months to go.”

To avoid spreading and catching viruses, hand hygiene is critically important, Dr. Amler said.

“Viruses spread more easily in the winter, and handwashing is one of the best ways to avoid viruses,” Amler said. “Wash your hands thoroughly for about 20 seconds – the amount of time it takes to sing the A-B-Cs or to sing the Happy Birthday song twice.”

To avoid spreading germs, other tips include coughing into your sleeve -not your hands- and reminding children to wash their hands thoroughly after they sneeze. Also wash your hands before and after using the toilet, blowing your nose or preparing food, and teach your children the right way to wash hands. Wet your hands, work up a lather, scrub the back of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails, rinse and dry.

Until they are well, people who are ill should stay home and avoid visits to newborns or family members in hospitals, nursing homes, hospices or assisted living facilities, Amler said. People there are often at increased risk for complications from flu or other viruses, and viruses spread easily in these settings.

If you have a family member home sick with the flu or another virus, hand hygiene and frequent cleaning are critical for everyone in your household. Environmentally friendly cleaning products often aren’t strong enough to kill germs, Amler said.

Instead, clean high-touch hard surfaces with a bleach solution. Add a tablespoon of bleach to a gallon of water. Pour this into a labeled spray bottle and use it to clean countertops and tables, railings and door knobs, but don’t use on upholstered furniture. When you are sick, try to avoid preparing food for others and don’t share utensils.

Free flu shots will be given by appointment at the White Plains District Office, 134 Court St on Feb. 3 and 17; March 3 and 17 and April 7 and 21. Free flu shots will also be available at the Yonkers District Office, 20 South Broadway, 2nd floor, on

Feb. 10 and 24, March 10 and 24 and April 14 and 28. Call (914) 995-5800 to schedule a visit.

For a visual reminder of these seasonal health tips, watch the Department’s video below:

For more information, contact the Westchester County Department of Health at (914) 813-5000 or visit our website at You can also follow us on Twitter @wchealthdept or like us on Facebook at