Flu is 'widespread' in Rhode Island

Flu is 'widespread' in Rhode Island

PROVIDENCE – Michael Fine, MD, director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, declared Wednesday in a statement "that flu is widespread in Rhode Island."

He's requiring that all healthcare workers who have not been immunized against the flu to wear surgical masks during direct patient contact.

And he's urging everyone to get vaccinated if they haven't so far this year. “Since vaccination is the best defense against influenza, it is extremely important for everyone to get vaccinated now if they have not already done so,” added Fine.

According to Fine, this year, throughout the country, CDC has tracked many cases of severe respiratory illness from the H1N1 virus, which in some instances have led to hospitalization, and even death, among young and middle-aged adults. So far this season there have been 51 hospitalizations related to the flu in Rhode Island. The flu is currently widespread in 25 states, including Massachusetts and Connecticut, Fine's statement said.

The dominant strain of flu circulating in Rhode Island and the country is H1N1, which was first detected in 2009. This strain affects children, young adults, and middle aged adults more than other strains. However, this year’s vaccine protects against H1N1 flu, as well as two or three other strains depending on what type of vaccine that people receive, according to the department.

Everyone older than six months of age should be vaccinated against the flu every year. In addition to healthcare workers, vaccination is especially important for pregnant women, the elderly, and people with chronic medical conditions such as heart, lung or kidney disease, diabetes, and asthma, Fine said.