DOVER, N.H. — New Hampshire is one of the 41 states in the country designated as having “widespread” influenza, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Some local hospitals are already feeling the effects.
Wentworth-Douglass Hospital Nursing Supervisor Susan LaPierre reported she has seen an increase in patients stopping by the Dover hospital with signs of the flu, though she said some of them have just been diagnosed with the common cold.
“It seems like it’s more, but I can’t tell for certain,” she said. “Last year it seemed like an incredible amount too.”
LaPierre noted the hospital tracked cases of influenza during the national “swine flu” outbreak in 2009 and 2010 with the influenza strain H1N1, but the hospital has not reached that stage at this point.
According to data from the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), approximately 10 percent of all deaths were related to pneumonia and influenza-related deaths during the week ending on Dec. 22, which was below the epidemic threshold of approximately 12 percent.
WMUR reports that 12 deaths in the state in December were linked to the flu, a higher rate than the past few Decembers. Foster’s reported in mid-December only two deaths had been recorded by the state at that time, and Maine had just reported the death of a young child from the flu then, too.
Huggins Hospital Marketing Manager Mariann Murphy said although she had recently returned from vacation, at the end of December she saw an increase in flu cases in Wolfeboro, as well as people stopping in with the norovirus stomach bug. She said the stomach bug tends to crop up when the flu does.
“Before I left we had seen quite an increase,” Murphy said, referring to reports of flu around the time of Dec. 27.
A Frisbie Memorial Hospital spokesperson in Rochester could not be reached for comment before press time.
The Nashua Telegraph reports New Hampshire did not reach “widespread” status until a month later last year, where a relatively mild flu season was recorded.
The common flu vaccine this year protects against the three most predominant strains — H1N1, influenza A, known as strain H3N2, and influenza B. The vaccine is recommended for everybody aged 6 months and older and is free for New Hampshire residents under the age of 18.
The state department urges everyone to cover their coughs and sneezes with a tissue, and to throw the tissue in the trash after it is used. People exhibiting symptoms of a cold should isolate themselves from others at work and in their household. The public is urged to wash their hands often with soap and water and to avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth to prevent the spread of germs. The DHHS also reports bedside tables, children’s toys and kitchen and bathroom surfaces should be wiped down with disinfectant and any tissues and other disposable items used by sick persons in a household should be thrown away as soon as possible.
Distributed by MCT Information Services