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HEALTH Monitoring a Cluster of Flu-like Illness As Rhode Island Enters Peak Flu Season

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is closely monitoring classroom clusters of flu-like illness at Wakefield Elementary School as Rhode Island officially enters peak flu season. HEALTH's laboratory has confirmed some illnesses were caused by the influenza Type A virus, which is among the preventable flu strains in this year's seasonal flu vaccination.

The school has experienced a high rate of absenteeism since the New Year and HEALTH is working directly with school administrators to limit the spread of flu and to make sure students receive appropriate medical care.

"The situation at Wakefield Elementary School underscores the importance of flu vaccination," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "Flu activity peaks in Rhode Island in January and February. It is not too late to get a flu shot. In fact, this is the most important time to make sure you are vaccinated. Every Rhode Islander who has not yet been vaccinated against the flu should get vaccinated now."

Flu is a serious illness, especially for young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and anyone with a chronic health condition or a weakened immune system. Everyone older than 6 months of age should get a flu vaccination every year, even healthy people. Some children may need second doses of flu vaccine.

Symptoms of the flu include a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle pain, and fatigue. In addition to vaccination, good health habits can prevent the spread of germs that cause the flu.

• Wash your hands throughout the day with warm water and soap or an alcohol-based hand gel. • Cough or sneeze into your elbow. Flu is spread through coughing or sneezing on other people or into your hands. Cover your coughs and sneezes to prevent others from getting sick. • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way. • Stay home if you are sick. If you have flu-like symptoms, stay home from work, school, or child care until you have been fever-free (temperature less than 100.4ºF/38ºC) for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications.

Flu vaccine is available at primary care providers' offices and pharmacies throughout Rhode Island. For more information, call the HEALTH Information Line at 401-222-5960 / Relay 711 or visit

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