Saturday January 5, 2013

NEAL P. GOSWAMI

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- The Bennington area is seeing high a high occurrence of influenza, according to local health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Southwestern Vermont Medical Center spokesman Kevin Robinson said the emergency department is reporting one to three cases per day of influenza. The department typically reports treating one to two cases per week, he said.

"Flu is widespread in our area," he said. "What we're seeing in our emergency room certainly bears that out. We're seeing a few cases a day. When we start to see one to three cases a day of flu in the ER that indicates that there's a significant amount of flu in the community."

Robinson said the hospital also follows Google trends, which tracks Internet searches related to the flu and can pinpoint flu activity. "What Google has figured out is that they can tell when flu hits an area based on people searching for the flu, and it's really accurate," he said.

Local and state health officials are continuing to urge people to receive a flu shot. "The best thing that people can do is to get a vaccine because that will help prevent the strains of flu that are in the vaccine," Robinson said.

"We're definitely still saying go get a flu shot," said. Dr. Patsy Kelso, the state's epidemiologist. Anyone older than 6 months should receive a seasonal flu vaccine, she said.


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There is little data so far on how effective the flu vaccine is against the strains of flu circulating this year, according to Kelso. She said the CDC laboratory has looked at 413 separate flu viruses since Oct. 1 and the "vast majority of those are a good match" for the vaccine. "What is circulating in Vermont may be different," she said.

Robinson said people should make sure they wash their hands and stay away from people who are already sick. Most people can expect to be sick for about a week, according to Robinson. Symptoms include chills, fever and body aches, he said.