Influenza hits the Elm City

New Haven has become a hotbed for influenza this year, as an uncharacteristically high number of Connecticut residents are suffering from the virus.

As of Jan. 10, Connecticut’s Department of Public Health had 1,676 laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu in the state, which City Hall characterized as an “early and comparatively higher” number of reported cases of influenza. According to a City Hall report, an estimated 10.4 percent of New Haven residents have suffered from the flu, which the report said mirrors the incidence rate seen throughout the rest of the state.

City Hall spokeswoman Anna Mariotti said that since the flu is hitting the nation more severely than usual, city officials are “closely monitoring” the situation in New Haven. She encouraged all residents of New Haven to get vaccinated.

Yale Health is providing free flu shots to those who have not already received them at the Preventative Health Department on the second floor of the Yale Health Center weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. University spokesman Tom Conroy said several hundred people a day have been coming in for the vaccine. At Yale-New Haven Hospital, the high number of reported cases of the flu has led to a new policy prohibiting those under 18 from visiting the hospital, barring a hospital exemption.

“We have seen a sharp increase in flu activity over the past few weeks here in Connecticut,” Connecticut DPH Commissioner Jewel Mullen said. “People should take steps to avoid getting the flu, including getting vaccinated. Even though the flu is here, it’s still not too late to get vaccinated.”

This year has already seen a severe flu epidemic spreading across the country. New York state and Boston have both declared states of health emergencies in order to channel more money into fighting influenza. As of Jan. 14, 19,128 cases had been reported in New York, compared to 4,404 cases during the 2011–’12 season, while Boston saw 700 confirmed flu cases by Jan. 9, 10 times the number of reported cases last year.

Yale-New Haven’s policy of restricting visitors under the age of 18 is the first such policy since the H1N1 virus infected the city in 2009, said Yale-New Haven Hospital Associate Director for Hospital Epidemiology Louise Dembry. The hospital began the policy last Friday, and it is unclear when visitors under the age of 18 will be allowed to visit the hospital again, she added. Hospital officials will continue to monitor the flu situation and will relax the policy after the influenza epidemic has died down, she said.

Dembry added that while it seems like slightly more people are getting vaccinated this year than in previous years, the hospital will not offer more vaccinations than usual because the hospital ordered vaccinations in the summer. She stressed that the sooner a person is vaccinated the better, since it takes about two weeks to become immune to the virus after receiving the vaccine.

In Connecticut, all pre-K students must have received the flu vaccine in order to be enrolled in school.

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