PROVIDENCE - With Rhode Island now in peak flu season and flu-related hospitalization rates climbing throughout the state, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reminds all Rhode Islanders that it is not too late to be vaccinated against influenza.
"Influenza usually hits Rhode Island the hardest in January and February. This year, flu has been widespread in Rhode Island since early December, which means we could be facing one of the harshest flu seasons we have seen in years," said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH. "Anyone older than six months of age who has not been vaccinated against the flu should be vaccinated as soon as possible. By getting your flu shot, you are protecting yourself and your loved ones by helping to prevent the spread of the flu."
Dr. Fine declared influenza to be widespread in Rhode Island on Dec. 5, 2012, and this declaration remains in effect. The state is currently seeing approximately 14 flu-related hospitalizations per day and approximately 9% of emergency room visits during the past week have been for influenza-like illness. Rhode Islanders who develop influenza-like symptoms, which include fever, cough, head and body aches, fatigue, and runny nose, are encouraged to see their doctor as soon as symptoms develop for treatment that can help lessen the severity and duration of the illness.
The influenza vaccine being used this year is a highly accurate match for H3N2, the dominant flu strain in circulation. Flu vaccine is the most effective protection against the flu. Particularly for the elderly, vaccine can prevent hospitalization and death.
For those who receive the influenza vaccine but still get the flu, vaccine shortens the duration of the illness and makes symptoms less severe. It also lessens the chances that the infected person will spread the flu to others.
Immunization against the flu is especially important for healthcare workers, pregnant women, anyone older than 50 years of age, nursing or group home residents, and people with chronic conditions or weakened immune systems. Common chronic conditions include heart, lung or kidney disease, diabetes, asthma, anemia, and blood disorders. It is also especially important for those who live with or care for people who are at high risk for flu-related complications to be immunized.
Adults and children can be vaccinated by their doctors. Additionally, adults can be vaccinated at pharmacies, and children and adults without doctors or health insurance can be vaccinated at public clinics.
For more information about the flu or for more information about where you can be vaccinated, visit www.health.ri.gov/flu