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Flu Making A Comeback In Connecticut Amid COVID-19 Surge -

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CONNECTICUT — Last year, the influenza virus took a season off largely due to COVID-19 mitigation measures. School closures, social distancing, mask-wearing and canceled travel all contributed to an unusually mild flu season in Connecticut and across the country.

This year, it's likely we won't get so lucky.

Influenza activity in the United States is increasing, though the amount varies by region, according to data compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hospitalizations are rising and, so far, two pediatric deaths have been recorded, according to CDC data.

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Throughout the entirety of last year's unusually light flu season, just one child died. In contrast, 199 children died from the flu two years ago, and 144 the year before that.

"This is setting itself up to be more of a normal flu season," Lynnette Brammer, who tracks flu-like illnesses for the CDC, told The Associated Press.

Find out what's happening in Danbury with free, real-time updates from Patch.

The childhood deaths, she added, are "unfortunately what we would expect when flu activity picks up."

"It's a sad reminder of how severe flu can be," Brammer said.

Flu activity is increasing most in eastern and central parts of the country, according to the most recent CDC data. The western part of the country, however, is reporting lower flu numbers.

In Connecticut, flu activity is low. A total of 40 influenza-associated hospitalizations, and two deaths, have been reported since the beginning of the 2021-22 season.

For the week ending Dec. 18, flu activity was high or very high in eight states or U.S. territories. Cases were moderate in 14 states, low in 12 and minimal in 21.

The most intense flu activity was in Washington, D.C., New Mexico, Kansas, Indiana, New Jersey, Tennessee, Georgia and North Dakota.

In the same week, 80,658 tests were processed at clinical laboratories throughout the United States, according to the CDC. Of those, only 5.6 percent were positive for influenza. At public health labs, 27,560 tests were processed, and 691 were positive for influenza.

So far this flu season, 17,391 tests have come back positive for influenza, according to CDC data. The dominant strain is H3N2, a type of Influenza A virus.

There are also signs that fewer people are getting flu shots compared with last year. With hospitals already stretched by COVID-19, it's more important than ever to get a flu shot and take other precautions, Brammer told The AP.

"Cover your cough. Wash your hands. Stay home if you're sick," Brammer said. "If you do get flu, there are antivirals you can talk to your doctor about that can prevent severe illness and help you stay out of the hospital."

COVID-19 vs. Influenza

COVID-19 and influenza have many of the same symptoms, which means determining which one you have can't be done based on symptoms alone. Testing is needed to confirm a diagnosis, the CDC says.

Common symptoms that COVID-19 and influenza share include:

  • Fever or feeling feverish
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle pain or body aches
  • Headache
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Change in or loss of taste or smell. This is more frequent with COVID-19.

Both COVID-19 and the flu can spread among people who are in close contact with one another; however, the coronavirus virus is generally more contagious than flu viruses.

With the flu, a person typically experiences symptoms anywhere from one to four days after infection. With COVID-19, symptoms generally appear about five days after being infected; however, symptoms can appear anywhere from two to 14 days after infection.

People also can be infected with influenza and the coronavirus at the same time and have symptoms of both viruses.

Learn more about the similarities and differences between COVID-19 and the flu.

Preventing Illness

The flu is a highly contagious illness, which is why the CDC urges everyone to take the following steps to protect themselves and others:

  • Take time to get a flu shot: While there are many different flu viruses, a flu vaccine protects against the viruses that research suggests will be most common. The CDC says it's not too late to get this year's vaccine.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
  • If you are sick with flu symptoms, you should stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. This is how germs spread.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs such as the flu.
  • Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them.

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