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Manhattan Youth Soccer Club Bans High-Fives Due To Flu Epidemic

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Forget about shaking hands with anyone these days – the flu emergency has some people taking drastic precautions.

As CBS 2's Steve Langford reported Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a public health emergency for the state of New York over the weekend, as the flu epidemic rocked the nation and hospitals and urgent care centers saw huge crowds.

Web Extra: Tri-State Area Flu Resource Guide

And as the flu epidemic in the New York area drags on, some are suggesting drastic measures to avoid getting infected.

"We just thought it would be prudent to have some safety protocols in place for the kids," said Dr. Valerie Parkas, who is not just an infectious disease specialist at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, but also president of the Manhattan Soccer Club.

The club has banned high-fiving and hand shaking at youth soccer games.

The MSC sent the following e-mail to parents:

There have been increasing Influenza cases this winter so we just want to remind families of some strategies for decreasing the spread of the Flu within the club.

Players should practice good hand hygiene by washing hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (eg. Purell).

Players should avoid touching their nose or mouth.

Players should cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when they sneeze or cough.

Players should not share drinks or snacks with each other.

If your player is sick, do not send him or her to practices or games. Keep your player home for 24 hours after there are no longer signs of a fever or other flu symptoms (cough, runny nose, sore throat, muscle aches). Keeping your sick player home will prevent other players from getting sick.

Speak to your doctor about the flu vaccine.

At this point the MSC Board and the coaching staff would recommend that players not shake/touch hands with opponents after the games. The safest thing to do is to touch elbows. The coach or manager can explain this to the other team prior to the game.

Meanwhile, the once-annoying flu shot has become a scarce status symbol these days.

The flu epidemic has sent so many in search of medical treatment that the Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, N.J., at one point had to divert patients arriving in ambulances to other area hospitals.

"We do get a spillover from the hospitals from the emergency rooms," said Dr. Douglas Borkowski of the Doctors Express walk-in medical clinic in Paramus.

Borkowski's clinic still had flu shots Tuesday for the many who were not already coming in feeling lousy.

"It varies from people who are just mildly sick, to people who are just miserable -- high fever -- and feel like garbage," Borkowski said.

Experts have advised taking any precautions necessary to beat the relentless adversary known as the flu.

"The main thing is just keep washing your hands, you know; when you cough cover your mouth, and try to stay away from other people that are sick," Parkas said.

That would put the subway off limits.

To date, two children in New York state and 18 nationwide have died from the flu.

Close to 20,000 cases of influenza had been reported in New York state for the season, compared with 4,404 for all last season, according to Cuomo's office. As of last week, the state Department of Health had received reports of 2,884 patients hospitalized with the flu, compared with 1,169 last year.

Do you think the no high-five/hand shake rule is a bit much or necessary? Sound off below.

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