Schools, town have little data about flu

This flu season may be bad, but Ridgefield town and school officials don’t have a clear picture of the flu situation here.

The schools nursing coordinator said there’s been an increase in absences, but wouldn’t give numbers, saying they could be misleading, since they’re not necessarily flu-related.

The town personnel department doesn’t track how many people are out sick on a given day or their reasons for calling in sick.

The schools personnel director, who tracks some information related to absences and sick days, was out sick.

Statewide statistics shed little light on the level of influenza here in Ridgefield.

Among 1,680 laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu in Connecticut from August through Jan. 5, there have been just two cases reported in Ridgefield, according to the state Department of Public Health. Cases of the flu frequently go unreported, and a number of cases with flu-like symptoms don’t turn out to be an actual strain of influenza.

“Lots of flu cases never go fully reported,” Dr. Patrick Broderick, chairman of the department of emergency medicine at Danbury Hospital, told Hersam Acorn Newspapers this week. “But the barometer of cases reported are well ahead of last year.”

Flu ‘season’ is in the fall and winter months, from as early as October through as late as May, generally peaking in January and February, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). However, for reporting purposes, the state tracks annual figures from August through June.

That confirmed cases figure — 1,680 — is already more than the entire 2011-12 flu season, which had 1,083, and there are five and a half months left of reporting to go, according to state Department of Public Health data through Jan. 5.

Fairfield and New Haven Counties have the highest number of confirmed cases.

In Fairfield County there have been 451 confirmed cases so far compared with 336 for the entire previous season.

The state reports that 10% of hospital visits are categorized to “fever/flu-syndrome.”

“Unlike the H1N1 virus we had a couple years ago, this does not seem to be particularly affecting any age group. H1N1 was found more in the pediatric population, it affected children much more. This is affecting the general population,” he said.

Health officials recommend vaccinations along with some general disease-reducing practices like hand washing, wiping down cell phones and keyboards, and using he crook of your elbow rather than your hand to cover a cough.

“It’s not too late to vaccinate yourself,” said Dr. Broderick. “It does take two to four weeks to acquire some immunity, but the flu season will continue through February and March.”

The Ridgefield Visiting Nurse Association has been in flu shot overdrive, holding “emergency clinics,” and extending their “Wellness Wednesdays” at Bissell Pharmacy far longer than planned. They offer flu shots, as well as shingles and pneumonia at “Wellness Wednesday.”

“Usually our clinics wind down in November,” she said. “We started in September.”

“We’ve vaccinated getting close to 3,800 people,” said Eloise Barron, RVNA director of community health and wellness.

She said the RVNA has not had any trouble getting as much vaccine as it needs, but anticipating how much demand there will be can be tough.

“Just as soon as the vaccine comes in,` we’ve been working to schedule appointments or schedule walk-in clinics,” she said.

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