The Department of Public Health is reporting that 17 people in Connecticut have died from an influenza-associated illness.
To date, there are a total of 3,248 reports of the flu with six deaths throughout the state and with the most common type being influenza A (H3N2) virus. Here is the breakdown by county:
Fairfield County: 902 flu cases
Hartford County: 627 flu cases
Litchfield County: 133 flu cases
Middlesex County: 264 flu cases
New Haven County: 731 flu cases
New London County: 247 flu cases
Tolland County: 106 flu case
Windham County: 238 flu cases
Over the last four weeks, the Department of Public Health has seen a "very large increase" in people being hospitalized for influenza-associated illnesses.
State health officials said this season the percentage of total emergency department visits that attributed to the flu/fever syndrome is at level of 12.4 percent versus 8 percent during the previous two seasons.
"When in doubt, when you are sick with the fever and respiratory illness, the best thing you can do is don't be a superhero, stay home and don't spread the infection around," said Dr. Setu Bora from Willaim Backus Hospital.
According to numbers released by William Backus Hospital, there were 15 positive cases for the flu in 2012, while in 2013, there have been 314 cases with an average of 64 per week.
Experts said flu season usually doesn't peak until late January or February, but the cases began early this year. And many expect the numbers to continue to rise for the next few weeks.
Of 17 deaths from influenza-associated illnesses, the Department of Public Health said 15 of them were people who were older than the age of 65. And the other two deaths were people between the ages of 55 and 65.
Hospitals such as William Backus Hospital have posted signs requesting frequent washing of hands and restricted the number of guests allowed to visit patients.
The Connecticut Department of Public Health released the following tips on avoiding the flu:
Wash your hands often with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
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.
Call your healthcare provider immediately if you develop flu symptoms to determine if a medical evaluation is necessary; antiviral medications can help if taken early in the illness.
If someone has not gotten their flu shot yet, doctors are advising Connecticut residents to get one as soon as possible because it is unclear how long this season will last. If you do get a vaccine, it will take 10 to 14 days before it becomes effective.
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