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December 26. 2013 9:13PM

In NH, flu season off to a mild start

While they caution it is still early, health officials say they’re encouraged by the low level of flu activity so far.

A good sign: by this time last year, the country was in the throes of a flu outbreak that led to several fatalities, including three New Hampshire children.

“We have not seen any widespread activity,” said Christine Adamski, chief of infectious disease control for the state of New Hampshire “But it’s still very early in the season to make any determination what kind of a season this will be.”

Most flu outbreaks take place in January and February.

In their most recent report, state health officials said flu-like illnesses comprised a scant 0.2 percent of all physician visits during the second week of December. The level was similar to the previous week.

Flu-related deaths were below national thresholds of concern, the state reported. And only slightly more than half of the 28 samples of specimens submitted to the state tested positive for flu.

Manchester City Health Director Tim Soucy said there’s little indication of flu in the city, but he has heard some anecdotal reports of stomach bug. It’s easy for such diseases to spread during the holidays, he said. People are confined more, and there’s lots of eating and food preparation.

The norovirus, which is linked to most stomach bugs, can be spread by an infected person shedding viruses while preparing food, he said.

Adamski advised proper hand hygiene and good respiratory etiquette to prevent the spread of the flu and stomach bug.

Soucy attributed the low number of flu cases to the availability of flu shots. Opportunities to get a vaccine were plentiful this fall. He said the Health Department did all it could to make sure key groups were vaccinated, including city and school workers.

He said the Health Department had a limited number of free vaccines. In New Hampshire, flu shots and other vaccinations are free for children, he said.

“For most people, finances are not a barrier,” he said.

Adamski said the two flus that have been detected so far — Type A H1N1 and Type B — were included in the vaccine. She said there is still time to get a flu shot.

mhayward@unionleader.com


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