Health Department Calls Increase in Flu in Connecticut ‘Alarming'

The flu season is intensifying in Connecticut and the state Department of Public Health said hundreds of hospitalizations and 15 deaths of residents who are 65 years old and older are alarming.

Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Raul Pino and state epidemiologist Dr. Matthew Cartter held a news conference Friday morning, said flu season could continue for another four to six weeks and called on residents who have not gotten flu vaccines to get vaccinated.

The flu outbreak is widespread in Connecticut, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fifteen people 65 years old and older in Connecticut died from influenza between Aug. 27 and Jan. 6 and there have been 456 hospitalizations, according to state records.

“We have an increase that is alarming to us,” Pino said.

Pino said the number itself is not alarming, but the alarming fact is that the illness is particularly severe for older residents. Last year, younger people and babies were more affected.

Carter said the state first started to see an increase in hospitalization for influenza during the second week of December and the numbers of cases have been going up since then. The CDC is predicting the peak of flu season to be in mid-February.

“In most years, a flu season lasts anywhere from six weeks to eight weeks to 10 weeks in any particular place, so we’re not yet at peak, but we’re hearing from hospitals across the state that many are full. They have no extra beds, they’re seeing lots of ill patients with influenza-like illnesses or confirmed cases of flu,” Carter said.

Pino also addressed flu vaccines and said the vaccine has not been “that effective with specific strains of the viruses, but what has also been clear is that getting immunized, even if you don’t get 100 percent effectiveness, it also prompts your immune system to respond in a better way to the viruses.”

When asked whether there has been a shortage of antivirals, Carter said he has not received reports and will be getting in touch with the state’s hospitals and expects it to be part of a conversation today with the CDC.

“So far, we’re not receiving those kinds of reports here,” Carter said.

The flu is now widespread in every state except Hawaii, according to the Associated Press.

Influenza has been reported in all eight counties in Connecticut.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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