DOVER, N.H. — With flu season seemingly winding down, and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention announcing a peak in its season, the Granite State says it is hesitant to jump to any conclusions with the announcement that a child under the age of 5 died this month. That brings the total number of Granite State deaths for the season to 35.
Chris Adamski, bureau chief for infectious disease in the N.H.’s Division of Public Health with the Department of Health and Human Services, said there were 13 reported deaths in December and there have been 22 so far this month. The state DHHS says the total number is the highest number recorded since 1997.
Adamski said the department is still urging people to get the influenza vaccine even though it is later in the season, which typically runs through April.
“It’s not too late to a get flu vaccine,” she stressed. “Even though this may have been the peak and we’re not sure, people should still go ahead and get vaccinated. It’s still fine to do and it is really still recommended.”
The state DHHS reports flu activity in the state remains “widespread” though the number of outbreaks and reports of influenza illness in provider settings has decreased. Adamski referred to the dip in outbreaks as a “downward slope” though she added, “It’s still a very active season.”
In Maine, CDC Director Dr. Sheila Pinette said the number of outbreaks in the state is more than 10 times higher than last year’s state figures, with 132 outbreaks reported so far since Jan. 22. She noted outbreaks are mostly occurring at long-term care facilities though two occurred at a day care facility and a university this month.
Pinette also stated at this point she believes Maine’s influenza figures for the season have surpassed the numbers recorded there during the national outbreak of H1N1, commonly referred to as “swine flu,” in 2009 and 2010.
She added there have been three flu-related deaths reported so far this month in Maine, though there is no requirement for hospitals to report flu deaths so the number may not entirely be a fair representation of the death toll. There have also been no additional announcements of pediatric deaths since a young child reportedly died in Maine in mid-December.
Both state departments released limited information regarding those juvenile deaths and would not provide where the children lived.
The three most prevalent influenza strains recorded this year are Influenza A, or H3N2, Influenza B and H1N1, all of which are covered by this year’s vaccine. The New Hampshire DHHS reports an average of 25,000 people die each year in the U.S. from influenza and states the best way for residents to protect themselves is by getting immunized.
Those with the flu are urged to stay home from work or school and to isolate themselves, to practice good “respiratory etiquette,” covering their mouths and disposing of used tissues, and to practice thorough hand washing techniques.
Distributed by MCT Information Services