by Rob Glidden
This year’s flu season has been unusually potent, but representatives of the Southington-Plainville Health District said there was no need for panic.
The spread of flu is common during the winter months, but recent reports have indicated a season more severe than normal. The city of Boston even declared a state of emergency because so many residents were ill. The state’s Department of Public Health has concluded that “influenza activity in Connecticut has been classified geographically as widespread,” noting that flu-related visits to state hospitals had increased by about 10 percent this year, higher than the 8 percent reported for the last two years.
Health Director Shane Lockwood said the situation in Southington and Plainville was not an emergency and recommended that residents take advantage of flu shots.
“Locally, we’re not anywhere near that,” Lockwood said. “I think the flu shots do help keep it under control. There are benefits for all age groups, not just the very young and very old.”
Plainville Town Manager Robert Lee, who sits on the regional health district board, said the officials did not consider this year’s flu an emergency. However, he noted that Plainville in particular was vulnerable to the flu because of a large elderly population and dense areas with houses close to one another. He commented that Southington, a larger town, was “more spread out.”
“We’re keeping a close eye on it,” Lee said of the flu. “At this point in time, other than monitoring it and recommending flu shots, we’re taking a wait-and-see approach.”
In addition to flu shots, officials recommended that people cover their coughs and wash their hands very often in order to help prevent spreading the illness. Lockwood also said those dealing with the flu should sleep as much as possible and try to avoid going into work.
However, this can pose a problem for many workers. In January, the sick time of many workers has just been reset and those who catch the flu are concerned about using it so early in the calendar year when it has to last for another eleven months. Workers with no sick time at all often feel compelled to show up for duty rather than give up some of their pay.
“That’s something businesses need to think about,” Lockwood said. “It only takes one employee who gets sick and feels like he has to come to work to infect all the other employees.”
More information on the flu’s spread within Connecticut can be found at www.ct.gov/dph.