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Health department: Worst flu season in several years, cases in decline

By this point in the flu season, some people are still on high-alert, while others have long forgotten this winter curse.

Several weeks ago, the Town of Darien announced that the health department had run out of the flu vaccine. The manufacturer that the town recieves its supply from had no more in stock, said David Knauf, the town’s health director. The department began its campaign to encourage residents to get their flu vaccines early in the fall.

Connecticut has had a rough season — the virus started going around earlier than ever, and the entire state is still on high-alert, according to the state’s public health department. Flu season can last through May and normally peaks in February or March, whereas this season’s peak was in January, according to the state website.

Data from the first week of February 2013 showed that flu activity — noted as “fever/flu syndrome” and “inluenza-like illness” — had decreased from the previous week. Of all emergency department visits, 8.5% were due to “fever/flu syndrome,” down from 12% statewide, according to the state health department’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. “These current levels are higher [than] observed during the previous two seasons, which did not exceed 8%,” the report said.

Doctor visits for influenza-like illness, which had decreased from 4.6% to 3.3% that week, and like emergency room visits, the rates this season are higher than the two preceding.

Both the demand and concern for the vaccine has dwindled, said Knauf, Darien’s health director. He has not recieved a call about flu shots “in weeks” and the incidence rate, or frequency of new cases in the population over time, also seemed to decline, he said.

“We are not getting the number of reports of positive cases that we were getting a couple of weeks ago,” Knauf said.

The Connecticut department of public health is “still reccomending” that residents get their flu shot, said Bill Gerrish, the director of communications. “It may require some dilligence in finding one,” he said.

CVS Pharmacy on Boston Post Road in downtown Darien had vaccines available as of last week, though Walgreens’ pharmacy, on Heights Road, did not. Residents should call their local pharmacy, or doctor’s office, ahead of their visit to ensure that the vaccine is in stock or has been restocked.

More info: Ct.gov/dph

ydavydov@darientimes.com

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