11 more flu-related deaths reported this past week


Five people have died from the flu in Connecticut this season and now, doctors are reminding people to take precautions to prevent themselves from getting sick.

Influenza activity "has rapidly increased" over the past two weeks and been reported in all eight counties, according to officials from the Connecticut Department of Public Health. Five people than 65 years of age have died since the start of the flu season.

Local doctors with American Family Care pointed out five habits that could increase your chances of getting the flu at the start of the new year.

Take a look in a slideshow here.

This as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new data that shows high levels of flu across half of the country. The state Department of Public Health in Connecticut recently labeled the virus as "widespread" in the state.

“This is peak flu season. It’s really cold outside. We’ve had some record cold temperatures. People are all inside. They are closer together and germs are spread much easier,” said Brandon Batory, who is a physician’s assistant with American Family Urgent Care in Vernon.

He says what people may not realize is that some of their new year’s resolutions could do more harm than good when it comes to getting the flu.

Working out too much could weaken your immune system, and so can adopting a low carb diet.

“Some of those things can be vital nutrients to help build your immune system and build your gut bacteria. So going completely low carb can actually be more detrimental to your overall health especially during flu season," Batory said.

Here are the five habits that could put people at risk for the flu, according to AFC: Working out too much. While doctors say regular exercise is good, over-exertion and not drinking enough water could weaken the immune system, according to AFC doctors. Going low carb. Ditching bread and certain fruits in low carbohydrate diets may not be the best idea. Whole grains are good for the gut during flu season, says research from the American Physiological Society. They build healthy bacteria. Doing it all. Stay home from work or school and don't run errands. If a fever is contracted, people are urged to stay home at least 24 hours after its gone before even venturing out to a drug store for medicine. Puffing on the vape pen. E-cigarettes put people at risk of picking up flu germs. Vapors can trigger inflammation in the lungs and make them more likely to become infected, according to a study published in PLOS. Stressing out. Stress makes people more susceptible to getting sick, a study by Carnegie Mellon University said.Batory says there are also habits which can help you prevent the flu. A big one is to avoid sharing pens.

“You go to a bank, you go anywhere you got pens on the string that thousands of people are using those pens and passing germs along so you have to be careful in public places for sure,” Batory said.

Rounding out the list is using your knuckles instead of fingertips at debit card machines, playing it safe at the pump by using a paper towel to hold the nozzle, washing your hands, and keeping your phone and computer to yourself to avoid the spread of germs.

AFC doctors recommend getting a flu shot, regardless of its effectiveness. Experts said even a less effective flu shot can help lessen symptoms.

Here are some tips from AFC on how to prevent the flu: Avoid sharing pens. They are covered in people's germs. Knuckle it. When using a debit machine or other public device where fingers are required, use a knuckle instead of a fingertip. That way, rubbing the eye or mouth later will avoid transferring germs. Play it safe at the pump. Grab a paper towel and use it to handle the gas nozzle. Shake and wash. Wash hands after shaking someone else's. Hands off, please! Wipe down phones, tablets and anything else that's touched by others.DPH officials said statewide emergency department visits attributed to the fever/flu syndrome "are continuing to increase and are now at 7 percent, which is well above the level of 5 percent statewide; generally considered the minimum threshold when there are elevated influenza-associated ED visits."

The percentage of outpatient visits with influenza-like illness exceeded 4 percent, which DPH officials said was well above the level of 1 percent statewide. The percentage of unscheduled hospital admissions due to pneumonia have now increased above the level of 4 percent statewide.

There has been 713 influenza positive tests during the current flu season. To read the Current Influenza Season Weekly Updates, click here.

For more information, click here.

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