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CT flu cases surge since Thanksgiving; highest among New England states

Across Connecticut, 3,296 flu cases were reported in the week ending Dec. 3, with 32 hospitalizations, according to preliminary data.

Since the start of the current flu season, Connecticut has had 12,000 flu cases and 153 hospitalizations for the illness. The state Department of Public Health confirmed the first death of a resident in New London County due to influenza this season.

In fact, Connecticut has the highest number of flu cases in all of New England, according to national flu data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and preliminary data from the Connecticut Department of Public Health.

Statewide, 3,296 flu cases were reported in the week ending Dec. 3. There were 23 hospitalizations.

“The numbers are going to get worse,” said Dr. Ulysses Wu, an infectious disease specialist at Hartford Hospital. “And so what we’re seeing is an early rise. Influenza will peak typically mid-February, early February. I think it’s going to peak earlier, possibly sometime in late January.”

Wu said several factors were to blame.

“Our vaccination rates for influenza are low,” he said. “If you go out and about, you can see that masking is fairly limited at this point. We haven’t had a lot of influenza, there’s not a lot of robust immunity against influenza to begin with. That’s why we’re seeing rates that we haven’t seen since 2010.”

He urged people to mask up indoors, pointing to two years of low infection rates.

“We didn’t have RSV, we didn’t have influenza last year,” he said. “We didn’t have even so much as a lot of rhinovirus that was circulating. So if you’re indoors in an unknown situation where you don’t know everybody, maybe you should wear a mask. If you’re outdoors, you are going to be fine.”

Correction: The number of reported flu hospitalizations was reported incorrectly in an earlier version of this story. There have been 23 hospitalizations, not 32."

Sujata Srinivasan is Connecticut Public Radio’s senior health reporter. Prior to that, she was a senior producer for Where We Live, a newsroom editor, and from 2010-2014, a business reporter for the station.