State health officials issue warning; latest flu trends “alarming”

HARTFORD - On Friday, Connecticut’s Department of Public Health issued an emergency public announcement. Their experts called the latest flu trends in the state “alarming”.

Their biggest concern is the high rate of people hospitalized for the flu in recent weeks.

State epidemiologist Dr. Matthew Cartter said the DPH is now warning that flu season is intensifying.  Carter said “We first started to see a steep increase in the number of hospitalizations in the 2nd week of December and it’s been going up since then.”

The Commissioner of Public Health warned that there have been 15 flu-related deaths of people 65 and older this season, with that same age group making up the majority of the more than 450 flu hospitalizations.

Connecticut is still four to six weeks out from peak flu season, but in just the last three months the state has seen more than one thousand confirmed flu cases.

Cartter said “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.”

Health experts warn that the most prevalent strain circulating this year, called H3n2, is causing a more severe illness than others, particularly for people 65 and older.

“Influenza is not the common cold, it’s the fever, the headache, the muscle ache, cough. You feel like you’ve been run over by a truck,” said Cartter.

Commissioner Raul Pino said “We want to encourage everyone in Connecticut to get vaccinated, it’s very important for immune disorders, preexisting conditions, and for people 65 years and older.”

The commissioner added this year’s flu shot is only about 30 percent effective, but says it’s still important to get, because “even if you don’t get 100 percent effectiveness it also prompts your immune system to respond in a better way to the viruses

The CDC is warning that all high-risk patients with flu symptoms should be treated with antiviral drugs as soon as possible. Local health authorities saying today they’ll be watching supply levels of those medications closely over the next few weeks, fearing there may be a shortage.