Concord, NH – New Hampshire is experiencing an increase in influenza-like illness across the State, which is indicating a more severe flu season than in recent years. The predominant strain of influenza that is circulating in New Hampshire and across the country is Seasonal A H3N2. The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Division of Public Health Services (DPHS) is encouraging anyone who is six months of age or older who has not yet received this year’s flu vaccine to get vaccinated – it’s not too late.
“The amount of illness we are seeing here in New Hampshire,” said NH Public Health Director Dr. José Montero, “is not yet to the point of alarming. However, it is cause for serious concern especially since we have now seen 14 influenza related deaths so far this season, which is unusually high for this early in the season. It’s important for people to remember to take steps to prevent becoming ill, most important is vaccination. It can take up to two weeks for your immune system to fully respond to the vaccine so it’s important to get the shot or nasal version of the vaccine as soon as possible.”
So far this season there have been 40 institutional outbreaks; the majority occurring at nursing homes and long-term care facilities. The NH Public Health Laboratories has so far tested 408 specimens and 238 were positive for influenza. Many hospitals around the State are also reporting an increase in people seeking treatment for flu-like illness.
Influenza can be a serious disease of the lungs, nose and throat. The illness is spread from person to person through coughing and sneezing. Typical flu symptoms include fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and muscle aches. An average of 25,000 people die each year in the United States due to influenza.
It is especially important that all persons over six months of age be vaccinated for their own health; and, other groups, such as health care providers, should receive the vaccine to protect others. The vaccine is a good match to the strains of flu that are circulating so far. Staying home when you are sick with the flu will help prevent the spread to others and antiviral therapy can be used treat persons with flu.
For more information on influenza and the vaccine, contact the NH Immunization Program at 800-852-3345 ext. 4482 or 603-271-4482 or the Communicable Disease Surveillance Section at 800-852-3345 ext. 0279 or 603-271-0279. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website at www.cdc.gov for more information or the DHHS website at www.dhhs.nh.gov. To get the flu vaccine, contact your healthcare provider or visit a local pharmacy.