Health officials: 15 deaths, 'high level' of hospitalizations re - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Health officials: 15 deaths, 'high level' of hospitalizations reported from flu

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DPH commissioner Raul Pino reported 15 deaths from the flu this season. (WFSB) DPH commissioner Raul Pino reported 15 deaths from the flu this season. (WFSB)

Local health officials said there have been 15 deaths and a high level of hospitalizations related to the flu.

The Department of Public Health said this flu season has been particularly severe among people aged 65 and older.

“This year’s flu virus appears to be affecting older persons especially hard,” DPH commissioner Raul Pino said. “It is not too late to get a flu shot, and some people who are sick with influenza may need to be treated with an antiviral medication.”  

The number of deaths in Connecticut increased to 15 from a reported five people earlier this week. The victims were over the age of 65. 

The symptoms are fever, cough, and feeling fatigued, but it can lead to pneumonia and other infections.

"There's also some concern there may be a shortage of antivirals around the country, because this is being seen across the country, not just in Connecticut," state epidemiologist Dr. Matthew Cartter said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that this year's vaccine is only about 30 percent effective, but they are still urging people to get vaccinated because it can still greatly diminish the impact of the virus if contracted.

 "It's very important for people with immune disorders, pre-existing conditions and for people 65 years and older to get vaccinated," Pino said. 

Cartter and Pino called that number "alarming" because it's so early in the season. The state may be four to six weeks away from seeing a peak. Flu season typically lasts up to 10 weeks. CDC officials predict that mid-February will be the peak for the nation.

"So we're not yet in peak season and what we're hearing from hospitals across the state is that they have no extra beds and they are full of patients that have influenza-like symptoms," Cartter said.

The CDC said 221 deaths from the flu have occurred so far this year nationwide. There can be anywhere between 10 to 50,000 in a year. Cartter and Pino said there were 60 deaths in Connecticut last year. 

Cartter and Pino said all eight counties in the state have seen an increase in flu activity over the past two weeks.The DPH said there's been a steep increase in the number of hospitalizations. More than 1,015 people have had the flu since the end of August, according to the DPH. A total of 456 of those cases required hospitalization.

The DPH said patients should be treated with Tamiflu if they become ill.

The statistics prompted doctors to tell people to take precautions and hold a news conference on Friday afternoon.

"We're hearing from hospitals across the state that many are full. They have no extra beds," Cartter said. "They're seeing a lot of ill patients with influenza like illnesses or confirmed cases of flu."

Hartford Hospital Director of Infectious Diseases Dr. Jack Ross explained what they are seeing. 

“On a day when everything is operations we have about 87 ICU beds and 42 step down beds," Ross said. "As of right now I have one ICU bed available.” 

Ross said the flu season started for them in the middle of November.

 “This is what we typically see for flu season, we often see up to 450 people diagnosed here, we’re at about 250," Ross said. "We often see deaths from influenza, the average here for us is 10 and as of today we have had 6 deaths due to influenza.” 

More than half of the cases seen at Hartford Hospital have been people over the age of 65.

“We peaked out early this week at 42 cases in house in the hospital that’s what we usually see at the peak of flu season. Today it’s 33 cases in Hartford Hospital," Ross said. "Today there were only seven new cases, earlier in the week and last week we were seeing 15 to 25 new cases a day.”  

While Ross said There appears to be a lull, he’s not ready to say it’s peaked as the peak is normally seen in mid-February.

“This year we’re actually seeing a lot of type B right now which surprises me," Ross said.

As far as beds go, the ICU may be filled but they do have other areas to put people if necessary and reiterated that people should still get the vaccine if they haven’t.

See some of the riskiest habits and best preventative measures here

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