BANGOR – Last year, Maine and the nation saw the worst flu season in decades where scores of people died.
“The Maine CDC now reports somewhere between 85 and 90 deaths in the state of Maine,” said Dr. James Jarvis, Northern Light Health Eastern Maine Medical Center, senior vice president and senior physician executive.
“It was actually one of the worst years we’ve had in recent memory,” Jarvis added. “The CDC just recently stated about 80,000 people across the nation had died of influenza.”
Because the 2017 flu season was so bad, hospital staff are asking people to take precautions now.
“Last year, I don’t think we were prepared for the influenza season as we should have been,” Jarvis said. “How do we prepare? The best thing to do is to get vaccinated against influenza. So getting your flu shot is incredibly important.”
Flu symptoms include fever, chills, coughing, fatigue, head and muscle aches, a sore throat, and swollen lymph nodes. Jarvis stressed paying attention to hand and cough hygiene.
“We should be washing our hands on a regular basis, using hand sanitizers, and when we’re coughing we should make sure we always cough into our elbow, and not onto our hands to spread to other surfaces,” Jarvis said.
An uncovered cough spreads germs for at least three feet, and those germs can contaminate items around the person.
“What happens if they cough and sneeze on a desk, or on a telephone or they use the handle onto a door after they have done that,” Jarvis said. “They can spread the virus that way.”
Flu activity in the U.S. is currently listed as low but the virus has already claimed the life of one child, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention update issued on Oct. 13.
“The CDC recommends that anyone over the age of six months should get the vaccine,” Jarvis said. “Particularly people who are elderly should get it, children should get it, women who are pregnant and anyone with heart disease or respiratory disease should absolutely get the influenza vaccine, as should those of us in the healthcare field.”