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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Connecticut Reports First Flu Cases

State health department officials said today that four confirmed cases of influenza have been reported in Connecticut – two in Fairfield County.

State Public Health Commissioner J. Robert Galvin said the confirmation by the state Public Health Laboratory means that that the influenza season has officially begun in Connecticut.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell and Galvin urged Connecticut residents to talk to their doctor about getting a flu shot.

“If you have been waiting to get a flu shot, please don’t wait any longer — flu is here and there is still vaccine available in the state,” Rell said in a statement.

“We continue to recommend that Connecticut residents who are at high risk due to complications of the flu speak with their health care providers and consider receiving a flu shot.”

“Type A influenza was the cause of illness for four Connecticut residents - one from Middlesex County, one from New Haven County, and two from Fairfield County,” according to Galvin.

‘These cases represent the tip of an iceberg. For every case confirmed by the laboratory, there are many more residents sick with the flu. We expect influenza activity to increase over the next several weeks, with some people developing more serious illnesses.”

The Public Health Laboratory has identified or “typed” the virus in one case as influenza A (H3N2). The other three cases are waiting further testing. Seasons in which influenza A (H3N2) viruses predominate are associated with higher mortality and greater number of influenza-associated hospitalizations, according to a department news release.

Persons with influenza usually experience a rapid onset of fever, chills, headache, and muscle ache followed by a runny nose, sore throat and cough, which is often severe and lasts for many days. Most persons with influenza recover within two to seven days, the department said.

Limited supplies of influenza vaccine are still available in Connecticut. Health care providers may call the Department of Public Health at (860)509-7929 to get information on obtaining additional influenza vaccine.

In addition, the Connecticut Chapter of the American Lung Association runs a Web site to local public clinics. The Web address is http://www.alact.org For those without Internet access, INFOLINE at 2-1-1 can locate clinics through that Web site, the department said.

In general, anyone who wants to reduce his or her chances of getting the flu can get vaccinated, the department said.

However, certain people should get vaccinated each year. They are either people who are at high risk of having serious flu complications or people who live with or care for those at high risk for serious complications. People who should get vaccinated each year are:

1. People at high risk for complications from the flu:
■ People 65 years and older;
■ People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities that house those with long-term illnesses;
■ Adults and children 6 months and older with chronic heart or lung conditions, including asthma;
■ Adults and children 6 months and older who need regular medical care or were in a hospital during the previous year because of a metabolic disease (like diabetes), chronic kidney disease, or weakened immune system (including immune system problems caused by medicines or by infection with human immunodeficiency virus [HIV/AIDS]);
■ Children 6 months to 18 years of age who are on long-term aspirin therapy. (Children given aspirin while they have influenza are at risk of Reye syndrome);
■ Women who will be pregnant during the influenza season;
■ All children 6 to 23 months of age;
■ People with any condition that can compromise respiratory function or the handling of respiratory secretions (that is, a condition that makes it hard to
breathe or swallow, such as brain injury or disease, spinal cord injuries, seizure disorders, or other nerve or muscle disorders.)

2. People 50 to 64 years of age. Because almost one-third of people 50 to 64 years of age in the United States have one or more medical conditions that place them at increased risk for serious flu complications, vaccination is recommended for all persons aged 50 to 64

3. People who can transmit flu to others at high risk for complications. Any person in close contact with someone in a high-risk group (see above) should get vaccinated. This includes all health-care workers, household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children 6 to 23 months of age, and close contacts of people 65 years and older.

This year’s flu shot contains the A/California/7/2004 (H3N2)-like, A/New Caledonia/20/99 (HlNl)-like, and B/Shanghai/361/2002-like strains of the virus, the department said.

“This year’s flu shot should provide immunity against the types of influenza expected to be the most likely to occur this winter,” Galvin said. “It takes about one to two weeks after vaccination for antibody against influenza to develop and provide protection.”

Whether you receive a flu shot or not, there are some other steps you can take to avoid the flu this year and stay healthy, according to the department. They are:

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick, too.
• Stay home when you are sick. If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
• Seek care early. See your healthcare provider immediately if you develop flu symptoms; antiviral medications can help if taken early in the illness.

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Posted 12/29/05 at 11:31 PM  Permalink



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