Local health departments see slow start to flu season
The state has had its first flu-related death of the season, according to the state Department of Public Health, and the number of cases in Fairfield County is highest in the state, but local schools are saying it’s been a slow start to flu season.
Fairfield schools on Monday sent an email are warning parents.
“Our school community is currently experiencing an upswing in the number of flu cases and stomach bugs.”
According to Jill Mitchell, assistant director for public health nursing with the Fairfield Health Department, only one flu case had been reported to her, though she said it was important for parents to take precautions.
“We like to be proactive in our approach,” Mitchell explained. “We sent educational things that the parents can do.”
Measures include washing hands with water and soap, covering coughs and avoiding those who are showing symptoms. The letter home also noted that, unlike a cold, flu symptoms generally include a fever, headache, fatigue, weakness, exhaustion, aches and pains.
Mark Cooper, director of the Westport Weston Health District, said that he’s seen no more than three cases across both districts come across his desk in the past week.
“It’s been very quiet,” Cooper said, adding that flu cases are generally weather-related. “Every year is different. We’ve had nice warm weather. When the weather gets cold, people tend to be inside and you tend to get more person-to-person contact and sharing of air. You’ll see an uptick in cases when the weather gets colder.
Similarly, in Darien, Director of Health David Knauf said that the district has seen cases reported increasingly later in the season over the past few years, and that the number of cases reported so far has not been alarming.
Knauf’s department has partnered with the Darien school district to track absentee rates.
“There’s been a little uptick, but it’s nothing to the extent that we think there are any major issues going on,” Knauf said.
As of Dec. 2, the state reports, there has been one flu-associated death in a person older than 65. No other details were given. The state also reports that 197 people had tested positive for the flu — an increase of more than 50 cases from the previous week, when 142 people had tested positive for the contagious respiratory illness.
The flu has been reported in seven of the state’s eight counties. Fairfield and Hartford counties are tied for the most flu-infected, with 59 cases each. New Haven County is a distant third, with 34 cases. There were 23 cases in New London County; nine in Tolland County, five in Litchfield County and four each in Middlesex and Windham counties.
Most of the flu viruses circulating in the state and the country are Type A. Of Connecticut’s 197 flu cases, 150 were caused by influenza A, with an unspecified subtype. Type A (H3N2) was present in 18 cases and Type A (H1N1) was present in three cases. The rest were caused by influenza B.
There have been concerns nationwide about this year’s flu season, as the Southern Hemisphere — which gets the flu season first — has seen a record number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Preliminary reports have also shown that the flu shot in the region seems to only be 10 percent effective in fighting influenza A (H3N2), which is the dominant strain.
But experts have said it’s still too soon to tell what the flu season will be like here in the Northern Hemisphere
New Canaan Director of Health David Reed said that New Canaan has not seen any cause for alarm to this point.
“But it can be around the corner. The flu vaccine is made by a panel of experts on the flu and infectious disease and they pick it based on what the see in the spring in other hemispheres,” Reed said. “Some years it’s 50 percent effective, other years not so much. This looks like a not-so-much year.”