Dangerous flu season leaves 5 dead in Connecticut

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)-- The extreme winter weather has given the flu season a jump start. The number of patients heading to doctors and hospitals doubled in the last week.

It is turning into a particularly nasty flu season. We're not just talking about people being uncomfortable for a few days. This flu season is proving deadly, even for younger people.

The latest statistics from the Connecticut Department of Public Health take us through the end of 2017. In that last week of December, Emergency Department visits were up 7%. Altogether, the state saw 713 flu cases confirmed by laboratories since August, and so far five people have died of the flu here in Connecticut.

Related: Packed emergency rooms, deaths as flu hits California hard 

All five were over the age of 65. It is usually the elderly who are most at risk of serious complications from the flu. However, this year, we are seeing a spike in younger people dying.

In California for example, 27 under the age of 65 have already died because of the flu. That's up from just 4 last season. Texas and Arkansas are the states seeing the most people coming in to hospital emergency departments complaining of dehydration and difficulty breathing.

"I think a lot of people just feel terrible which is one thing that can help you differentiate whether you have the flu versus some other respiratory viruses that are common right now. The flu really should knock you down," said Dr Michael Chang, Memorial Hermann, TMC/UT Health.

It is knocking down so many people in the south and western states, that some hospitals have had to put up tents outside to handle all of the patients. Doctors and nurses are doing triage in the hallways.

Nationwide, 41,000 cases of the flu have been reported. There were some questions early in the flu season about the effectiveness of this year's version of the flu vaccine.

Related: It's not too late for a flu shot

They change the vaccine every year because the strains of flu we see change every year. This year's vaccine is now considered 30% effective. That's not great, of course, but it is better than nothing.

Experts say it is not too late to get a flu shot. It does take time to kick in, but doctors say get it anyway.

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