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Uncas Health District conducts flu clinic in Norwich

Norwich — Joe Angelico of Bozrah said his visit to a flu clinic on Saturday was more out of necessity than it was his own fear of catching the flu.

His wife insisted.

“She’s been harassing me. She feels it’s safer and she’s got hers already,” he said.

Angelico was among what were expected to be dozens of others to roll up their sleeves at the Otis Library during a flu clinic hosted by the Uncas Health District. Health department personnel were joined by nursing students from Three Rivers Community College and volunteers from the Medical Reserve Corps program.

The clinic, funded through the state Department of Public Health, is part of the state's response to the severity and longevity of the flu season this year. For the week ending Feb. 3, emergency room visits in the state from people complaining of fever or flu-like symptoms were at the highest levels since the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, state Department of Public Health statistics show.

A total of 3,895 people had tested positive for influenza in Connecticut as of Feb. 3, with 1,360 requiring hospitalizations. There have been 63 influenza-associated deaths in Connecticut during that time, state Department of Public Health statistics released on Thursday show.

Of the deaths, 52 were people over the age of 65. The number of deaths appear to be on par with last season, when 65 deaths were reported in the state.

Susan Dubb, the public health nurse for the Uncas Health District, said Saturday’s clinic was part of an overall push to help prevent further deaths, hospitalizations and spread of the flu.

“This year has been a particularly virulent season,” she said. “And we haven’t really reached the peak of our flu season. Even when we peak, there will be a plateauing after that, even though we may not continue to see increases.”

She said it was an exceptionally early flu season by Connecticut standards.

"We usually don't see flu cases rolling into New London County until January," she said. “I saw my first case in November. That’s why we’re being so pushy about people getting their flu shots early in the season."

There are also reports of pharmacies running out of the flu vaccine. It’s not something unexpected since the demand usually drops by this time of the year but it has led to some frantic calls, she said.

Angelico said he had stopped into the pharmacy at his local Stop & Shop grocery store for a flu shot and was told he could sign up on a waiting list.

Steve Flaherty and Emily Wilkinson had driven to Norwich from Niantic on Saturday to get their flu shots because they hadn’t found a place locally with the vaccine in stock.

“We called all the pharmacies all around us. They were all out,” Flaherty said.

Flu shots remain available by appointment at Uncas Health, which serves eight other towns besides Norwich, and Ledge Light Health District, which serves New London and surrounding towns.

Dubb said the flu vaccine available this year protects against four types of flu strains. Despite its well-publicized low effectiveness on one common strain known as H3N2, it still could reduce the length and severity of the illness, especially for the elderly and children.

“Unfortunately, with the focus on the H3N2, people said ‘It’s not effective so I’m not going to get it,’” she said. “That’s not a great message.”


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