Concord, NH – The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Division of Public Health Services (DPHS) reports that New Hampshire is experiencing a more severe than usual influenza (flu) season. DPHS is reporting flu-related deaths in New Hampshire this season are now at 35, which is the highest number of flu-related deaths in a single season the State has recorded since 1997. This trend compares to increases nationally particularly among people 65 and older. DPHS is also reporting the season’s first pediatric death in the State related to flu this season. Due to confidentiality and privacy concerns, DPHS will not be releasing any additional information about this case other than the child was less than five years of age.
“One of the sad facts about influenza is that people can die from this illness,” said NH Public Health Director Dr. José Montero, “and people often tend to forget or ignore how serious it can be. The season is not over, and can run into May so we continue to encourage people over the age of 6 months to get vaccinated if they haven’t already done so this season. While the flu vaccination is the single best way to prevent the flu, there are also a number of things people can do to help stop the spread of illnesses – such as washing your hands often, staying home from work or school if you’re sick, covering your coughs and sneezes, get plenty of rest and eat a healthy diet.”
The number of flu-related deaths in December were 13, which is the highest number reported in the State for that month. So far this January there are 22 deaths reported – the highest number of flu-related deaths for that month. While flu activity in the State remains widespread, the number of outbreaks and reports of influenza illness in provider settings has decreased.
Influenza is spread from person to person through secretions from 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.
Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that this national flu season started early and activity remains high, and may for some time to come. The predominant strain of flu being seen is A H3N2, which is covered by this year’s vaccine.
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.