HARTFORD, CT - Influenza (flu) activity has rapidly increased in the past two weeks and has contributed to the deaths of three individuals in Connecticut over the age of 65 so far this season, according to the State Department of Public Health (DPH). While the increase in flu activity and deaths is not unusual for this time of year, DPH Commissioner Dr. Raul Pino strongly urged people who have not yet had a flu shot to get one.
“With the winter months and holidays bringing people together, typically indoors, people need to protect themselves from bringing home a present that no one wants: the flu. It is not too late to get the flu vaccination, and people should not be deterred from getting the shot because of recent reports that the vaccine hasn’t been as effective in other parts of the world,” said Dr. Pino. “While we don’t yet know how effective this year’s vaccine will be, we do know that the flu shot will give people more protection against the flu, and at the very least will lessen the symptoms if flu is contracted, than not having the shot at all.”
Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness that is spread through the air and by direct contact with respiratory droplets. Typical symptoms of the flu include sudden fever, aching muscles, sore throat, coughing, runny nose, headache, and eye pain. While anyone, particularly individuals who are not vaccinated, can contract the flu, the illness is especially dangerous for certain groups, including: people aged 65 and older; children younger than 2 years old; people of any age with chronic medical conditions, like asthma, diabetes, congestive heart failure, or lung disease; and pregnant women.
As of December 16, 2017, 355 laboratory confirmed cases of influenza have been reported in Connecticut, an increase of 100 cases over the previous week. 144 Connecticut patients have been hospitalized with confirmed cases of influenza, including 46 new hospitalizations between December 9th and December 16th. Overall, the most prevalent strain of influenza seen in Connecticut thus far this season is Influenza A (H3N2), which typically causes more severe illness than other flu strains.
“Give you and your family the gift of health this season by getting the flu shot and taking other steps to protect against illness: stay home if you are sick, wash your hands thoroughly and often especially when preparing and handling food, cover your coughs and sneezes, and let someone else do the cooking if you are not feeling well,” added Dr. Pino.