Newly released flu statistics from the CT Department of Public Health revealed that deaths from the virus are up to 97 in Connecticut, which is 20 more than the previous week. And while the season appears to show signs of peaking, it still remains widespread.

Last week 6-year-old Emma Splan, a first-grader at Columbus Magnet School in Norwalk, died of flu-related complications. Emma’s death comes just a month after 10-year-old Nico Mallozzi of New Canaan, died from the flu.

Earlier this month, the DPH reported more than 6,200 cases of the flu have been diagnosed statewide this season; Fairfield County had the most with 1,920.

GOOD Morning Wilton spoke with Dr. Mark Wasserman, AFC Urgent Care medical director and Janet Nazarian, director of marketing and community relations to get some insight into this year’s flu season and why it’s reached epidemic proportions.

What is it about the flu this year that makes it so much worse than previous strains? 

This year’s strain, H3N2, causes the worst outbreaks of two influenza A viruses and two types of influenza viruses. Seasons when H3H2 dominates, are associated with more hospitalizations, more deaths, and more illnesses, especially among the very young, the elderly, and people with certain chronic health conditions. This strain is able to change more quickly and effect the human immune system than other viruses targeted in this year’s flu vaccine.

How much longer will flu season last?

It’s hard to predict how long the flu season will last. Most of the time flu activity peaks between December and February, although activity can last as late as May. According to the latest data, flu activity has been increasing into February which is unusual. Even if flu activity peaks soon, there will be many more weeks of flu activity based on similar seasons when this strain has dominated.

How effective was the flu vaccine this year? 

Flu vaccines aren’t perfect. Health officials must choose the influenza strains that vaccine makers should target for an upcoming flu season months in advance, when it is hard to know what strains might be circulating. When the vaccines are well matched, effectiveness is at best about 60%. This year the flu vaccine has been reported as 36% effective in the US and only 25% against the dominant H3H2 strain.

When does it become “too late” to get the flu vaccine? 

It’s never too late to get the flu shot and is recommended throughout the flu season while flu viruses are spreading. While this flu season is predicted to continue for the next couple months, getting the vaccine can help prevent infections, more serious complications, and even lessen symptoms if you do get the flu.

How do you define the range of flu symptoms? What are the red flags for parents? 

Flu symptoms can vary from person to person. Some symptoms to watch for are:

  • Fever or feeling feverish
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting and diarrhea, although more common in children than adults

What protocol do you recommend if someone suspects they or a loved one have the flu? 

Parents should bring their children in to the hospital if they aren’t drinking, are very lethargic, have pain in a specific place in their chest, or are having difficulty breathing after normal activity. Also, if they are getting better and suddenly get worse, bring them to the hospital right away, because this could be a sign of a secondary bacterial infections.

What factors are/have been in place to describe this season as an “epidemic.” 

One reason that healthy children are particularly more vulnerable, is how their immune symptom responds. Infection with a flu strain they haven’t been exposed to can trigger their immune system to overreact which can lead to widespread inflammation that can be fatal.

What’s the best way to prevent or protect from flu? 

Aside from getting the vaccine, the most important thing you can do is prevent spreading germs. Wash hands frequently. If someone is sick, separate tooth brushes and replace after the person gets well. Wash bedding frequently in hot water. Clean your humidifiers. Keep the remotes wiped off with antibacterial wipes, as well as light switches and door knobs.

If you or someone in your family needs a flu shot or rapid flu test, AFC Urgent Care is in supply of both. Located at 607 Main Ave. in Norwalk (just over the Wilton/Norwalk border), the center is open seven days a week and no appointment is necessary.