A health alert from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Jan. 8 that influenza is widespread in the state, with confirmed cases in all counties.
“Maine CDC still strongly recommends a flu vaccine if you haven’t already been vaccinated,” the update said. “Although the vaccine is not a good match to the strain of flu circulating the most in the U.S., getting vaccinated may offer some level of protection from symptoms.”
Anecdotally, in the Midcoast, individuals are suffering from the flu, or they have a bad cold that settles into the head and bronchial tubes. Ambulances have been responding steadily over the past few weeks to calls reporting fever and malaise.
Maine labs are confirming as of Jan. 6 that samples are testing positive for Influenza A (H3N2).
Counties reporting the most cases of flu are Cumberland, Penobscot, and Knox. At the end of last week, there were 59 laboratory confirmed cases of the flu in Knox County.
Penobscot Bay Medical Center, in Rockport, reported Jan. 8 that since Christmas, Dec. 25, of the cases tested, 42 have returned positive for the flu.
Health officials urge those who were sick to stay home, not visit elderly care facilities, hospitals and daycares.
The drill follows:
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
- If sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
- While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
According to the U.S. CDC: “As of late December, all national key flu indicators are elevated and about half of the country is experiencing high flu activity. Flu activity is expected to continue into the coming weeks, with increases occurring especially in those states that have not yet had significant activity.
“Influenza A (H3N2) viruses are most common so far. H3N2-predominant seasons have been associated with more severe illness and mortality, especially in older people and young children, relative to seasons during which H1N1 or B viruses predominated. There are early indications that this season may be severe, especially for people aged 65 years and older and young children.”
Influenza (also known as the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:
- Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
* It's important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.
Most people who get influenza will recover in a few days to less than two weeks, but some people will develop complications (such as pneumonia) as a result of the flu, some of which can be life-threatening and result in death.
Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus and ear infections are examples of complications from flu. The flu can make chronic health problems worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have the flu, and people with chronic congestive heart failure may experience worsening of this condition that is triggered by the flu.
People at High Risk from Flu
Anyone can get the flu (even healthy people), and serious problems related to the flu can happen at any age, but some people are at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications if they get sick. This includes people 65 years and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant women, and young children.
Flu is unpredictable and how severe it is can vary widely from one season to the next depending on many things, including:
- what flu viruses are spreading,
- how much flu vaccine is available,
- when vaccine is available,
- how many people get vaccinated, and
- how well the flu vaccine is matched to flu viruses that are causing illness.
Over a period of 30 years between 1976 and 2006, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people. During a regular flu season, about 90 percent of deaths occur in people 65 years and older.
Reach Editorial Director Lynda Clancy at firstname.lastname@example.org; 207-706-6657