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Flu Cases Are Soaring in Connecticut But There's Still Time to Get a Shot

Flu shots are in short supply in West Hartford but some places have them and others, like New England Urgent Care, are creating waiting lists.

The state is seeing a surge in the number of flu cases and hospitals are reporting an influx of patients with the flu. Influenza season is in full gear here in Connecticut but it's not too late still to get a flu shot.

On Friday afternoon, there was a line of people waiting to receive their shots at CVS at 150 South Main St. in West Hartford. Hartford Medical Group's South Main St. facility had exhausted its supply of vaccines and were asking people to try their other offices.

New England Urgent Care on North Main St. ran out of vaccines on Friday morning. They were expecting to receive more in a shipment on Friday that failed to arrive, but owner and Medical Director Dr. Michael Gutman hopes to have a supply by Saturday morning. As of late Friday afternoon, New England Urgent Care's Simsbury facility was also out of vaccines, but the Enfield location had about 40 left.

"They're going like hotcakes," Gutman said. His office is taking names on a waiting list and will call those people when the shipment arrives.

"The past two years there have been hardly any cases of the flu. This year there are so many more," said Gutman. He said that some of this year's patients had received the flu vaccine, but it doesn't provide immunity from every strain of the flu that's out there.

If you think you have the flu, which Gutman said hits "hard and fast" and with a feeling of complete malaise, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. Tamiflu or Relenza can be prescribed and can help reduce the duration of the illness, but is most effective when taken within 48 hours of the onset. Gutman said he has checked with area pharmacies, and most still have a supply of those medications.

Gutman said that those who are most susceptible to serious complications like pneumonia should be assessed as soon as possible. Individuals over age 60, diabetics, and those with compromised lung capacity due to emphysema or COPD are particularly at risk for mortality due to flu-related complications, Gutman said.

In addition, Gutman advises those taking care of family members who have the flu to get a prescription for Tamiflu. "You can prevent yourself from getting it," he said.

Although it's still advisable to get a flu shot even this late in the season, it takes two weeks for the vaccine to become effective, Gutman said. His best advice is to avoid being coughed on or sneezed on, and to tell sick co-workers to stay home. "Going to work when you're sick is not going to make anyone a hero," he said.

So far there have been 1,680 confirmed cases of influenza in Connecticut, the Hartford Courant reports. Last year at this time there were only 30 cases confirmed by state health officials. Local hospitals, the newspaper reports, are over capacity because of an influx of flu patients, which make up 10 percent of all emergency department visits in Connecticut hospitals.

To find more places where you can get a flu shot or for more information on season influenza click here.

The American Red Cross issued the following press release this week on flu and flu safety tips:

  • Cover the nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing, and throw the tissue away after use. If a tissue isn’t available, cough or sneeze into the elbow, not the hands.
  • Wash hands often, especially after coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand-rub.
  • Avoid touching the eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home if sick. 

SIGNS OF THE FLU How does someone know they have the flu? The common signs of influenza are high fever, severe body aches, headache, being extremely tired, sore throat, cough, runny or stuffy nose, and vomiting and/or diarrhea (more common in children).

If someone in the household does come down with the flu, the Red Cross wants everyone to know the best way to care for them:

  • Designate one person as the caregiver and have the other household members avoid close contact with that person so they won’t become sick.
  • Make sure the person stays at home and rests until 24 hours after the fever is gone.
  • Designate a sick room for the person if possible. If there is more than one sick person, they can share the sick room if needed. If there is more than one bathroom, designate one for those who are sick to use. Give each sick person their own drinking glass, washcloth and towel.
  • Keep the following either in the sick room or near the person: tissues, a trash can lined with a plastic trash bag, alcohol-based hand rub, a cooler or pitcher with ice and drinks, a thermometer and a cup with straw or squeeze bottle to help with drinking. A humidifier will provide extra moisture, making it easier for the sick person to breathe. Sick people should wear a facemask, if available, when they leave the sick room or are around others.
  • Give plenty of liquids (water and other clear liquids) at the first sign of flu and continue throughout the illness. People with the flu need to drink extra fluids to keep from getting dehydrated.
  • Treat fever and cough with medicines that can be purchased at the store. Remember, when children are ill they should never be given aspirin or products containing aspirin - especially with the flu.
  • If the person gets very sick, is pregnant or has a medical condition (like asthma) that puts them at higher risk of flu complications, call their doctor. They may need to be examined and might need antiviral medicine to treat the flu.
  • Keep everyone’s personal items separate. All household members should avoid sharing pens, papers, clothes, towels, sheets, blankets, food or eating utensils unless cleaned between uses.
  • Disinfect doorknobs, switches, handles, computers, telephones, bedside tables, bathroom sinks, toilets, counters, toys and other surfaces that are commonly touched around the home or workplace.
  • Wash everyone’s dishes in the dishwasher or by hand using very hot water and soap.
  • Wash everyone’s clothes in a standard washing machine. Use detergent and very hot water, tumble dry on a hot dryer setting and wash hands after handling dirty laundry.
  • Wear disposable gloves when in contact with or cleaning up body fluids.

CALL THE DOCTOR If someone thinks they have the flu, their health-care provider should be consulted. Seek medical care immediately if the person develops any of the following symptoms:

  • Fast breathing, trouble breathing or bluish skin color.
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen (adults).
  • Confusion or sudden dizziness.
  • Not drinking enough fluids, not being able to eat, or severe or persistent vomiting.
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough.
  • Not waking up, being so irritable that the child does not want to be held or not interacting (children).
  • Fever with a rash (children).
  • No tears when crying or significantly fewer wet diapers than normal (children).

More information about how to help protect loved ones during this flu season is available on redcross.org.     

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