The Connecticut Department of Public Health in its weekly flu update is reporting that as of Jan. 11, 2011 the flu season is in full-swing.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), January is typically when the flu season peaks.
As of this week’s CDC update, the states reporting high levels of flu illnesses are Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, New York, North Carolina and Virginia.
The CDC also notes that reported cases of hospitalization often involve patients who have other health issues such as asthma, heart disease, obesity (a body mass index [BMI] of 40 or higher), a compromised immune system or they are infants/young children.
As for Connecticut, increasing numbers of people are showing up in emergency rooms with various strains of the flu.
The CDC doesn’t list Connecticut as having “widespread” flu, but the state’s health department does.
“Influenza activity in Connecticut is classified as ‘widespread,’ based on initial evaluation of influenza surveillance data for the week ending Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011,” the DPH Web site states.
So far, the cities and towns reporting the largest number of cases include Bridgeport (24 cases as of Jan. 8), Danbury (19), Greenwich (34), Harford (20), Milford (27), New Haven (27), Norwalk (45), Stamford (71) and Waterbury (23).
Locally, by county, Middlesex County reports 21 cases; Tolland County reports 10; and Windham County reports 22 as of Jan. 8.
The data collected by the Connecticut Department of Public Health sorts flu cases into the different strains circulating among us: Type A (H1N1) 2009, Type A (H3N2), Type B and “unknown type” or subtypes.
The flu vaccine available this year covers all of these strains, according to the CDC.
“Surveillance” information used by the CT Department of Public Health to conclude that the flu is widespread in this state includes:
- The percentage of total emergency department visits for the “fever/flu” syndrome – this category has been gradually increasing statewide and is most recently evident in eastern Connecticut.
- The percentage of outpatient visits with influenza-like illness – gradually increasing but so far, low.
- The number of weekly hospital pneumonia admissions – has increased significantly over the past 2 weeks.
- During the past week, 26 additional reports of persons hospitalized with influenza-associated illness were received: 1 with Type A (H1N1) 2009, 8 with Type A (H3N2), 16 with Type A unspecified, and 1 with Type B. There has been one death attributed to Type A (H1N1) novel, a resident of New Haven County in his/her 50s.
- A total of 615 positive influenza test reports received, including 554 Type A, 22 Type B and 39 of unknown Type. Of the 318 Type A viruses with known subtype, 93 percent were A (H3N2) and 7 percent were A (H1N1) 2009.
The CT Department of Public Health also looks at daily electronic updates on the number and nature of emergency room visits provided by The Hospital Emergency Department Syndromic Surveillance (HEDSS) System. This data includes a list of total patient visits with information on their chief complaint, including fever/flu, as well as a comparison with past flu seasons.
Another source of information is the Sentinel Provider Surveillance System. Reporting of influenza-like illness (abbreviated ILI) is conducted through a statewide network of volunteer outpatient providers known as ILINet.
The proportion of patients exhibiting ILI is reported to the health department on a weekly basis. ILI is defined as a cough or sore throat in the absence of a known cause, and the presence of a fever greater than 100 degrees, according to the CT Department of Public Health Web site.
The health department also receives daily reports from The Hospital Admissions Syndromic Surveillance (HASS) System, which collects data from all 32 acute care hospitals in Connecticut. HASS sends information on “unscheduled admissions,” including those for pneumonia, that may be associated with the flu.
The health department also monitors lab tests for flu that test positive, in order to determine what types, subtypes and strains are circulating.
You can use this link http://www.ct.gov/dph/cwp/view.asp?a=3136&q=410788 to check the weekly reports from the CT Department of Public Health.
And you can track the CDC’s weekly “FluView” of flu activity in the United States at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/summary.htm
In the meantime, the CDC notes that if you haven’t gotten a flu shot, you can still do so.
A number of local pharmacies are still offering flu shots – which, by the way, are effective against all the strains of flu mentioned in this story.
You can also call the town’s social services office, your local health district (see Related Links at end of story) or the local hospital to inquire about community flu clinics and financial assistance that might be available, or check with your regular physician.
Or check the Connecticut Flu Watch link at http://www.ct.gov/ctfluwatch/site/default.asp for other resources.
This year, many clinics are offering the nasal mist form of the flu vaccine – particularly for children, and the CDC is recommending vaccination for children 6 months old and up.
The CDC also highly recommends getting vaccinated if you are someone who has regular contact with children, the elderly or people with health conditions such as asthma and heart disease in order to reduce the risk of your passing the illness to them.
Posted Jan. 12, 2011
North Central District Health Department (includes Windham-Willimantic) http://www.ncdhd.org/
Eastern Highlands Health District (includes Columbia, Coventry, Mansfield, Willington) http://www.ehhd.org/
Chatham Health District (includes East Haddam, East Hampton, Hebron) http://www.chathamhealth.org/
CT Flu Watch site http://www.ct.gov/ctfluwatch/site/default.asp
“Flu vaccine in a skin patch?” published by HTNP.com Aug. 3, 2010 http://mansfield.htnp.com/2010/08/03/flu-vaccine-in-a-skin-patch/