The flu is no longer widespread in Rhode Island, Director of Health Michael Fine, M.D. announced today, while also reminding everyone who has not yet been vaccinated that it is not too late to get a flu shot.
Healthcare workers who had not been vaccinated against the flu had been required to wear surgical masks when engaged in direct patient contact since January 8, 2014, when the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) declared the flu to be widespread. This requirement is no longer in place. However, if the level of flu in Rhode Island rises again to widespread, HEALTH will put the masking requirement back into effect.
"Although the level of flu in Rhode Island has dropped, unvaccinated Rhode Islanders remain at risk for getting the flu," said Dr. Fine. "The flu is a serious illness and it typically remains in Rhode Island until April. For anyone who has not yet been vaccinated, it's not too late to protect yourself and the people around you."
There have been 2 flu-related deaths and 239 flu-related hospitalizations in Rhode Island during the 2013-2014 flu season. During the 2012-2013 flu season, there were 961 hospitalizations and no flu-related pediatric deaths. (HEALTH did not collect information on flu-related deaths for adults last year. This is the first year that this information is being collected for both adults and children.)
During this year's flu season, 491,264 Rhode Islanders have been vaccinated, a 1% increase over last year. During the 2012-2013 flu season, 485,303 people were vaccinated (up to this date). This year's figure is a 14% increase over the 2011-2012 flu season, when 431,032 people were vaccinated.
Everyone older than six months of age should be vaccinated against the flu every year. It is especially important for children younger than five years of age (children younger than 2 years of age in particular), healthcare workers, pregnant women, senior citizens, and people with chronic conditions to be vaccinated. Common chronic medical conditions include diabetes, asthma, and heart disease.
Adults can be vaccinated at doctors' offices or at pharmacies. Children can be vaccinated at doctors' offices.
For more information, contact the Health Information Line at 401-222-5960 / RI Relay.