Flu widespread in Rhode Island

Still time to get vaccinated
Fri, 01/19/2018 - 9:30am

“We’ve seen a small uptick in flu related activity, but not as significant as what is being reported on the mainland,” Dr. Mark Clark, Medical Director of the Block Island Medical Center, told The Block Island Times. Clark noted that it’s not too late to get a flu shot. “At the Medical Center we prepared for the flu season by hosting several vaccination clinics earlier in the season.”

The flu season typically comes and goes each year with basically the same results, with little fanfare, or regard for its occurrence. This year the infection earned the attention of the Rhode Island Department of Health, which is reporting that the flu is not only widespread, it’s dangerous and may get worse.

On Jan. 10, the Department of Health issued a press release noting that, “In the last 10 days, Rhode Island has seen significant increases in the amount of norovirus, flu, and other respiratory illnesses circulating throughout the state.” When a disease has been declared “widespread,” the DOH requires the state’s unvaccinated health care workers to wear masks when working with patients.

“The flu is a very serious virus that can send someone to the hospital, and norovirus can be dangerous for some people,” said Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, who has been the Director of the RIDOH since 2015, and is a specialist in infectious diseases. 

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov), norovirus is another highly contagious virus that does not have a cure and must run its course through the human body. The resulting symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramping. The website cdc.gov notes that the flu season runs from October to March, and peaks between December and February.

A report published in the New England Journal of Medicine states that this year’s flu vaccine is proving to be only 10 percent effective in fighting the infection. The report notes that the flu vaccine may have been mismatched for the strains that are spreading this year.

Dr. Clark said “good health hygiene” is encouraged to prevent contracting infection. “Wash your hands frequently, carry and use hand sanitizer, cover mouths when coughing and sneezing, and stay home and away from others,” he said, noting that people should “stay away from the elderly, the very young, and those with chronic illnesses, if you are ill or have fever. Those folks are most at risk of complications from the flu.”

“We are prepared at the Medical Center to recognize, test for, diagnose and treat flu,” said Clark. “The CDC recommends early treatment with antiviral medication. There is a confirmatory test for flu, although often the diagnosis can be made based on the patient’s symptoms and exam. Anyone that is experiencing high fever, dry cough and muscle aches should seek care. The elderly, the very young and those with chronic conditions are most at risk for complications and should seek care early if they suspect they may have contracted the flu.”

For more information, contact the Block Island Medical Center at (401) 466-2974, or go to bihealthservices.com.