Vyto Starinskas / Staff Photo
Jan Hansen, RN, with the 2012/2013 influenza vaccine at the Rutland Area Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice in Rutland on Monday. The association gives flu shots in the area.
Mayor Thomas Menino declared a state of emergency in Boston, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center has taken many steps to prevent flu transmission among its patients, and the Centers for Disease Control is reporting 20 flu-related deaths since October.
But in Vermont there is disagreement on just how bad this flu season is.
The Early Aberration Reporting System, a system that compiles syndromic data from emergency departments, physician office data and other information, shows that as of Jan. 5, 20 percent of Vermont hospital visits have been due to respiratory complications.
These results show that “Vermont hospitals are seeing a higher percentage of respiratory complaints than usual,” said Dr. Patsy Kelso, state epidemiologist at the Vermont Department of Health. “We’re a lot higher than in prior seasons.”
Despite the rise in data, Kelso wanted to make it clear that only a dozen Sentinel providers, which provide data for the CDC, are located in Vermont. The number could be more, or less, than observed.
Jan Hansen, manager of community and occupational health services at Rutland Area Visiting Nurses, says the current flu season has been busier than usual — but that’s because people are paying more attention than usual.
“Since there has been an increase in the press coverage of the flu, we’re getting people who didn’t get to our public clinics or wouldn’t normally get the flu shots,” Hansen said. “I just gave the flu shot to a woman who hasn’t had a flu shot since 1989.”
Compared with a cold, with upper respiratory afflictions, a flu infection is much more debilitating with body aches, muscle pains, sore throat, headaches, fever and lower respiratory infections. It’s also more difficult to control.
“The flu is typically very severe, a big difference from having a head cold,” said Marty Irons, pharmacist at Beauchamp & O’Rourke Pharmacy in Rutland.
If untreated, Irons continued, the flu could lead to pneumonia, which can complicate the health of seniors and younger adults who smoke or have asthma.
The best way to avoid contracting the flu — other than wearing a mask, frequently washing and sanitizing hands, staying away from large groups of people, or wearing latex gloves — is to get vaccinated against the virus.
Flu season, according to the CDC, lasts from October through March of the following year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tested 41 specimens from Vermont for influenza during the 2012-2013 season with only 16 positive results.
As of Jan. 5 the CDC FluView surveillance report ranks Vermont’s influenza-like illness (ILI) activity as “moderate.” ILI is defined as symptoms of a fever with a temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or more, cough and/or sore throat
On the CDC’s Vermont website report, flu activity in the state is widespread with “outbreaks of influenza or increases in ILI cases and recent laboratory-confirmed influenza in at least half the regions of the state.”
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