HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) - State health officials confirmed the first flu-related death of the season for Connecticut.

The state Department of Public Health reported the death on Friday.

It said the patient was over the age of 65.

"I can't emphasize enough the importance of the elderly getting vaccinated and get vaccinated now," said Dr. Jack William Ross, chief, infectious disease/allergy, Hartford Hospital. "In an average year, we'll have five deaths, last year we had 21."

So far this season, 22 people in Connecticut have been hospitalized for flu-related complications.

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The DPH said flu activity has slowly been increasing statewide since the end of August.

It called that typical for the start of the season.

A total of 41 patients have tested positive for the flu between Aug. 26 and Oct. 13.

Of those cases, 15 were in New Haven county, 13 in Hartford county, 6 in Fairfield county, 4 in Litchfield county, and 3 in Windham county. 

According to the Director of Infectious Diseases at Hartford Hospital, the first signs of a new flu season start in eastern CT, identified at William Backus Hospital, likely because of the casinos because people come from all over. 

"I can't stress enough the importance of the elderly getting vaccinated and getting vaccinated now, an average year we will have five deaths. Last year we had 21," said Dr. Jack Ross, Hartford Hospital. 

Sen. Richard Blumenthal held a news conference at Hartford Hospital on Monday to discuss the importance of a universal flu shot.

He said he's been calling for increased federal investment in universal flu vaccine development.

Congress recently approved $140 million in new federal funding toward such a flu vaccine. That is on top of a $40 million increase in federal funding for development of a universal flu vaccine secured earlier this year.

Now Blumenthal said he is helping to lead legislation to provide $1 billion in new research investment over the next five years.

More than 80,000 people died nationwide from flu-related complications, including 154 in Connecticut.

The first U.S. flu-related death of this season was a child in Florida.

For information on where to get the flu vaccine, check out vaccinefinder.org.

Copyright 2018 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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