PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Department of Health has declared the flu to be widespread statewide, according to Director Michael Fine, M.D.
The department issued a Declaration of Widespread Flu Incidence Statewide on Tuesday. This triggered Rhode Island’s regulations requiring all health care workers who have not been immunized to wear a surgical mask during direct patient contact.
According to Dr. Fine, “direct patient contact” refers to face-to-face contact with a patient, including entering a patient’s room, serving food to patients or participating in group activities.
“Flu is here in Rhode Island, and all signs indicate that this flu season is expected to be more severe than those in recent past,” said Dr. Fine. “We encourage all Rhode Islanders to protect themselves and those around them by being immunized against influenza. Our healthcare workers have an obligation to protect those they care for by getting immunized or wearing a mask as required by the Department of Health’s regulations.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this year’s flu vaccine is not as well-matched for battling the current strain of the flu (H3N2) as it was in prior years. However, getting vaccinated is still the best way to combat the disease which hospitalizes and kills Rhode Islanders each year.
Health officials are urging all Rhode Islanders to get vaccinated this week, in order to provide maximum protection against the illness. As always, it is crucial to wash hands frequently and to take proper infection control measures.
The flu vaccine is recommended for people ages six months and older. It is important that healthcare officials, pregnant women, people 50 and older, nursing home residents, and people with chronic conditions or weakened immune systems get vaccinated.
Immunizations are available throughout the state at primary care providers, flu vaccination clinics, and at local pharmacies. To find a flu vaccine clinic near you, visit www.health.ri.gov/flu.