Doctors offer tips for avoiding and attacking the flu

NEW HAVEN --  Hospitals across Connecticut are under great strain as a result of widespread flu that has blanketed the state since early December.

Among the flu related topics that doctors from the State Department of Public Health, New Haven's Health Department and Yale-New Haven Hospital addressed at a Friday press conference was a newly discovered way the flu can be contracted. They said through what's called small particle aerosols.

"These are just small droplets that can be produced even when you’re talking, even just when you’re breathing," said Dr. Richard Martinello, the Medical Director for Yale-New Haven's Epidemiology and Infection Control department.

The Flu, which this season has already killed 21 Connecticut residents, including 10-year-old Nico Mallozzi of New Canaan. Of course, children are among the most vulnerable demographics. But, because of the widespread outbreak, pediatricians are low on vaccines.

Another reason they're short: they usually stop ordering vaccines at this time of year.

"That's because they don’t want to be stuck with unused vaccine at the end of the year," said Dr. Matthew Cartter, Director of Infectious Diseases for the Connecticut Department of Public Health.

But, the New Haven Health Department is offering a solution: flu shots for residents at their office at 54 Meadow Street, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m., to 5 p.m.

"We have added more capacity to really meet the need and demand of parents," said Dr. Byron Kennedy, New Haven's Public Health Director.

Through last week, nearly half of Connecticut's 1,342 lab tests, that were positive for the flu, came from hospitalized patients. And, Yale New Haven has been hit very hard this week too.

"We’ve had over 50 patients we’ve had to hospitalize, specifically due to the flu," said Martinello, who noted that children under the age of 12 are not permitted to visit patients as a precautionary measure.

Doctors said flu vaccines are about 60 percent effective in prevention of the flu, which is not a great statistic, but "we are starting to learn a lot more about how if you get vaccinated and even if you do get the flu how that being vaccinated likely decreases the severity of the flu that you experience," added Martinello.

The doctors said adults can be contagious for about a week, while children can be two weeks.

Bottom line: if you have a persistent cough, headache and body aches, seek medical attention. Oh, and wash your hands often.