Michael Fine, M.D., director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH), has issued a Declaration of Conclusion of Widespread Influenza Period Statewide. According to HEALTH's regulations, healthcare workers who have not been immunized against influenza are no longer required to wear a surgical mask during all times of direct patient contact. However, if an individual facility experiences an outbreak, the Director may require unvaccinated healthcare workers in that facility to wear a surgical mask during direct patient contact.
"While we consider Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines in determining influenza activity levels, we also look closely at what we are seeing locally and pay attention to what we are hearing from our healthcare facilities," said Dr. Fine. "Based on the sum total of this information, I am declaring influenza to no longer be widespread in Rhode Island."
Flu vaccine is generally recommended for people ages six months and older. It is especially important for healthcare workers, pregnant women, people over the age of 50, nursing or group home residents, and people with chronic conditions such as heart, lung or kidney disease, diabetes, asthma, anemia, blood disorders, or weakened immune systems to be immunized against flu. In particular, those who live with or care for those who are at high risk of flu-related complications should also be immunized.
"While we are no longer considering influenza to be widespread throughout the state, unvaccinated Rhode Islanders remain at risk for getting the flu," said Dr. Fine, adding that the influenza season typically runs through May. "We strongly encourage all Rhode Islanders to protect themselves and those around them by being immunized against influenza."
Immunizations are available throughout Rhode Island, including through your primary care provider and at local pharmacies.
Symptoms of influenza can include fever, cough, head and body aches, fatigue and runny nose. Some people also have vomiting and diarrhea.
For more information about influenza, visit www.health.ri.gov/flu