The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reports today that two influenza-related deaths occurred in January, the state's first two of the 2013-2014 flu season.
The first individual, a male in his 50s who had underlying medical conditions, died on January 1. The second individual was a male in his 80s who also had underlying medical conditions and passed away on January 25. The delay in reporting the deaths was a result of the time needed to conduct tests to confirm that the flu was the cause of death.
"This is a very sad reminder that influenza is a serious illness," said Director of Health Michael Fine, M.D. "Everyone older than six months of age should be vaccinated against the flu every year. Influenza typically remains in Rhode Island until April. If you have not yet been vaccinated this year, it's not too late. When you get vaccinated, you are not just protecting yourself. You are also protecting the people you love."
This is the first flu season that information about adult flu-related deaths is being reported to HEALTH. This information must now be reported by all licensed healthcare providers and healthcare facilities in the state, according to a change made for this flu season in HEALTH's regulations on the reporting of diseases.
The dominant strain circulating this year in Rhode Island and nationally is H1N1, which affects children and young adults more than people in other age groups. In addition to children and young adults, vaccination is very important for pregnant women, healthcare workers, the elderly, and people with chronic medical conditions. Common chronic medical conditions include asthma, diabetes, heart disease, obesity.
There is still plenty of flu vaccine throughout Rhode Island. Adults can be vaccinated at doctors' offices or at pharmacies. Children can be vaccinated at doctors' offices.
To date, there have been 129 flu-related hospitalizations in Rhode Island.
For more information on the flu and flu vaccine, call the Health Information Line: 401-222-5960 / RI Relay 711, or visit www.health.ri.gov