The flu is again widespread in the Ocean State.
Public health officials made that announcement on Thursday, with an intense new wave of the illness marking the latest development in a season that has seen 13 flu-related deaths and 464 hospitalizations.
“This continues to be a dangerous flu season for the elderly,” said state Director of Health Dr. Michael Fine. “Vaccination is important for everyone older than six months of age, but it is particularly important for the elderly, people who are around the elderly and healthcare workers. It’s not too late to get a flu shot. When you get vaccinated, you’re protecting yourself and you also could be saving the life of a grandparent, patient, neighbor or friend who is especially vulnerable this year.”
According to health officials, this second wave of flu late in the season is stronger than a previous wave. The dominant strains have been H3N2 – which hits older people particularly hard – and influenza B.
Most of the flu-related deaths this season have been people in their 80s and 90s, according to officials. Of the hundreds of hospitalizations, 70 occurred between April 6 and April 12, which was the most recent reporting period.
The flu was previously declared widespread between Jan. 8 and Feb. 27.
Thursday’s announcement makes effective the requirement that health care workers who have not been vaccinated wear surgical masks during direct contact with patients. That mandate remains in effect until the widespread label is lifted.
Health officials say flu vaccine remains widely available in the Ocean State, and this year’s vaccine protects against each of the dominant strains currently circulating.