RVNA offers flu vaccines, prevention tips
The Ridgefield Visiting Nurse Association said Tuesday that it still has inventory of the flu vaccine to administer to residents.
April Rodriguez, the RVNA's community health and wellness nurse manager, said the nonprofit health care provider has administered 1,100 flu shots to the public and an additional 1,370 shots at private clinics.
She said that while the association does not have records of the number of people treated for the flu in Ridgefield, “statewide emergency department visits attributed to ‘fever/flu syndrome’ are continuing to increase and are now at 7.4%.”
The state considers 5% to be the minimum threshold, Rodriguez said.
Fairfield County as a whole has seen 256 cases of influenza-positive laboratory tests between Aug. 27, 2017, and Jan. 6, 2018, she added.
“We don’t have the comparable number for Fairfield County as of this time last year,” Rodriguez said, “but given the statewide trend, I think it is safe to assume that it is above last year.”
First Selectman Rudy Marconi said that while town health officials have not alerted him to any specific concerns this flu season, friends and residents have spoken to him in passing of prolonged colds and coughs.
“There seem to be a lot more people suffering from a little bit more than the common cold; that’s probably something we shouldn’t ignore,” he said. “People need to pay attention to the length of their cold, and don’t hesitate to see a doctor if they’re questioning anything.”
“It’s a serious thing going around,” Marconi said.
This year’s flu shot is less effective, Health Director Ed Briggs explained, because the Centers for Disease Control’s prediction of what strains of the influenza virus would hit were off. “They usually guess at the strains of flu that are going to be around, and this year they didn’t really get it right,” he said.
“According to the CDC, influenza A (H3N2) is circulating widely,” Rodriguez said. That holds true for Connecticut as well, according to the state Department of Health, she said. But “according to [the Department of Health], more people have been hospitalized with influenza B virus (64) than with influenza A (H3N2) (49), with data as of Jan. 6, 2018,” Rodriguez said.
Dr. David Reed, New Canaan director of health, repeated the call for flu vaccinations. If you get a flu vaccination and then get the flu virus, you reduce the chance of hospitalization and serious complications, Reed explained.
If you or a child is sick, do not go to school or work, he said, because that could spread a virus. Sneeze into your elbow and wash your hands, he added.
“The flu vaccine we have this year contains the A (H3N2) strain, but flu viruses are known for mutating as they move through the population,” said Rodriguez.
She added that while the Centers for Disease Control has said the vaccine is about 30% effective this year, that does not mean it is useless. The shot “can reduce the severity of symptoms, shorten the duration of illness, and protect the people around us that are most vulnerable, which are the young and the elderly,” she said.
The RVNA also suggests that people:
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- Wash their hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth without washing their hands first. This is a common way germs are spread.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
- Get plenty of rest and follow a healthy diet.
Marconi also urged residents to get the shot. “I get mine without fail every year,” he told The Press.
“It’s certainly a lot easier than ever before to get a shot,” Marconi added, listing the number of locations in town that offered a shot — “Bissell’s pharmacy, CVS, the RVNA.”
While he said he understood that some people still have reservations about vaccines, not inoculating yourself against the flu could have dire consequences for those around you.
“There are certainly people who are against any type of vaccine — for those who decide to not to get a flu shot, please understand that you’re endangering everyone by making that decision,” Marconi said.
Staff at the Ridgefield Visiting Nurse Association said they had seen an uptick in people calling about flu shots after the death of New Canaan resident Nico Mallozzi Sunday.
Mallozzi, 10, was a fourth grader at West School in New Canaan, started feeling ill last Thursday, Jan. 11, Reed said, and he went to be with his hockey team over the weekend. According to Reed, during the trip, the boy began feeling ill and went to the emergency room at Buffalo Women’s and Children’s Hospital. While at the hospital he was diagnosed with influenza B, Reed said.
The illness “progressed rapidly,” and “the infection overwhelmed the immune system,” according to the medical director.
“It had nothing to do with hockey,” Reed said, responding to a question about the boy’s participation in a hockey event trip to upstate New York.
The cause of the death was flu complicated by pneumonia followed by sepsis, Reed said Tuesday, relaying information he received from a New York state medical examiner.
Nico’s brother has also tested positive for the same flu type and is now hospitalized with flu symptoms, Reed told the New Canaan Advertiser, The Press’s sister paper, Monday, Jan. 15.
Reed advised families of children who played hockey with Nico Mallozzi or may have otherwise had contact with the boy to contact their pediatrician right away.
His advice for everyone else is to “get the flu shot if you have not had it.” Even in cases when the vaccination is not a direct match to the predominant flu bug circulating, Reed said, the vaccine shot can make the flu less severe and of shorter duration.
“This is a flu case,” Reed said. “It is not a shock” that the brother also got the flu. “It is expected,” he said.
“There is no evidence of any superbug,” he said.
Reed said he has found Tamiflu to be “an appropriate drug for the flu. … It is a pretty safe drug.”
Fatalities do happen, Reed said. “It is very tragic.”
To get a flu shot at the RVNA, visit the office at 27 Governor Street between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Children under 10 need an appointment. Late appointments may be made on Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. The out-of-pocket cost for the quadrivalent is $45; for the high dose, $65.