21 deaths now linked to the flu in Connecticut - WFSB 3 Connecticut

21 deaths now linked to the flu in Connecticut

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State epidemiologist Dr. Matthew Cartter said there has been a sharp rise in hospitalizations for the flu this season. (WFSB) State epidemiologist Dr. Matthew Cartter said there has been a sharp rise in hospitalizations for the flu this season. (WFSB)

Twenty-one deaths are now linked to the flu, according to the state Department of Public Health.

It’s being labeled the worst flu season in recent memory and swamping a number of hospitals across Connecticut. 

Of the deaths, 17 were among patients over the age of 65, two were between the ages of 50 and 64, one was between 25 and 49 years old and 1 was between 5 and 17 years old. 

The flu hit close to home for the New Canaan community. Earlier this week, officials there said 10-year-old Nico Mallozzi's death was linked to influenza B. Mallozzi's wake is scheduled for Sunday.

The DPH said 14 were associated the influenza A and seven were linked to influenza B.

Yale-New Haven Hospital, the Connecticut Department of Public Health and the Department of Public Health with the City of New Haven addressed this season's rampant outbreak of the flu on Friday at 11 a.m. in New Haven. They said the number of flu hospitalizations has risen dramatically since the start of the season at the end of the summer.

"Over the last few weeks in particular, we've been seeing quite a bit of influenza," Dr. Rick Martinello, who is the medical director of infectious disease at Yale-New Haven Hospital, said. 

The flu is considered to be widespread in Connecticut. Doctors and public health officials also advised that getting a flu shot can help, regardless of the type of flu it guards against.

This past week they hospitalized more than 50 patients for the flu, much more than what they typically see during the season, Martinello said.

"It puts a huge stress on the hospital," Martinello said. "We have our staff working really hard to make sure all of our patients are getting the best care that they can and really in a safe manner."

According to the DPH, influenza activity has remained high in Connecticut over the last few weeks. The state said it's seeing three types of the flu virus. The two strains are influenza A, which has been more predominant, and influenza B, which we usually don't see until later in the flu season. 

From the end of Aug. 2017 to Jan. 13, 2018, there have been 1,342 laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu. Of those, 615 required hospitalization.

"Pediatricians are getting calls about this every day and especially this week and it's really a question of educating parents," Dr. Matthew Cartter with the Connecticut Department of Public Health said. 

Hartford County had the most cases with 412 reports. Fairfield had 338, New Haven had 337, New London had 85, Middlesex had 68, Tolland had 41, Litchfield had 40 and Windham County had 21.

Flu symptoms typically include chills, dehydration, fatigue, and fever. Doctors and public health officials said as soon as you start to see symptoms, don't just assume its the common cold.

"If people have a fever and difficulty breathing, they need to talk," Cartter said. "It's time to pick up the phone and talk to a doctor."

Doctors and public health officials said by going to your doctor as soon as signs appear, they can prescribe medicine such as Tamiflu, which can cut down on the severity of the symptoms.

But, they add the best education starts with prevention, specifically the flu shot. They added that even if the flu vaccine is not the perfect match this season. It's better than the alternative of not getting one.

"Even if they're not a good match, you actually benefit from having the vaccination," Dr. Byron Kennedy/New Haven Health Department said. "Because when you have the vaccination you get benefits including decreased severity of symptoms and decreased duration of symptoms."

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