Frisbie emergency room visits where flu test is given show spike in infection rate

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The dark red line shows the increase in flu hospitalization numbers for the current flu season. (CDC graphic)

ROCHESTER - The number of weekly emergency room visits in which those who came in with flu-like symptoms and tested positive for the potentially deadly disease has doubled since December, according to the latest figures from Frisbie Memorial Hospital.

A spread sheet detailing the numbers tested and the counties where those who tested positive come from was released to The Rochester Voice on Monday.

The report indicates an increasing number of patients visiting the emergency room since October and November during which time only four came back positive for having contracted the influenza virus.

However, in late December, the numbers rose dramatically with 44 patients being tested, with nine found infected with the flu.

Those numbers spiked again in the last two weeks for which Frisbie had numbers. From Jan. 14-20 46 patients were tested with 14 coming back positive; and the next week, they spiked another 20 percent, with 62 being tested of which 17 were found to have taken ill with the flu.

Of the 17 found to have contracted the flu the last week for which numbers were available, 13 were from Strafford County, three were from York (Maine) County and one was from Carroll County.

Frisbie Marketing and Communications officer Michelle Landry said numbers for Frisbie-affiliated primary care doctors were not available to her, however Dr. Terry Bennett, a primary care physician who has a practice at his Quick Care Clinic on South Main Street, said recently he had two or three dozen patients who had contracted the flu.

Landry also said she could provide no data on Frisbie hospitalizations for the flu or if any patients had died from the flu.

All of the flu cases identified as positive from the Frisbie emergency room statistics are type A, which is considered the most dangerous and deadly strain.

The most recent numbers released from the state Department of Health and Human Services last month reveal that 13 people from New Hampshire have died from the flu this season.

Adult death due to the flu have occurred in Belknap, Carroll, Cheshire, Hillsborough, Merrimack, Rockingham and Strafford counties, according to the health department, which also indicated no children had died from the flu thus far.

More grim statistics from the CDC indicate that the season with the highest final cumulative rate of laboratory-confirmed influenza hospitalizations is the 2014-2015 season, which had a rate of 64.2 per 100,000. As of week 4 this year, the influenza hospitalization rate for the 2017-2018 season has surpassed the week 4 hospitalization rate for the 2014-2015 season.

The hospitalization rate for the 2017-2018 season is currently at 51.4 per 100,000. In comparison, the hospitalization rate during week 4 of the 2014-2015 season was 48.4 per 100,000.

Dr. Bridget Marvinsmith, a primary care physician at Appledore Family Medicine in Portsmouth, said the worst of the flu season occurs in December through February, but last year it continued into May.

She urges everyone to get a flu shot even though it's late in the game.

The efficacy of this year's flu vaccine is somewhere around 17 percent, experts agree, but Marvinsmith said that getting the vaccine will still mitigate symptoms even if it doesn't prevent you from getting the flu.

According to the CDC those symptoms include:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

And the complications can be much more severe:

  • Most people who get influenza will recover in a few days to less than two weeks, but some people will develop complications (such as pneumonia) as a result of the flu, some of which can be life-threatening and result in death.
  • Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus and ear infections are examples of other complications. The flu can make chronic health problems worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have the flu, and people with chronic congestive heart failure may experience worsening of this condition that is triggered by the flu.
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