Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Throughout October, Visiting Nurses Association of Care New England will host flu vaccine clinics in Rhode Island. As flu season approaches, the VNA will administer flu shots at six locations across the state. 

VNA nurse Paula Foster encourages all who want to be vaccinated to come; regardless of their insurance status.

“The state has allotted us a certain amount of vaccine for the uninsured," said Foster. "So nobody will be turned away, and we want to make sure that everybody that wants a flu shot is getting a flu shot.”

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Pun intended.

It's National Influenza Vaccination Week (according to the CDC), which I read as yet one more way to snap us out of complacency and into a clinic for a flu shot.

But it seems no amount of exhortation will move some people closer to the needle (or nasal spray).

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

A child from Rhode Island has died from a combination of infections, including enterovirus D68, or EV-D68. It’s one of the first known deaths with some kind of link to EV-D68. What role the respiratory virus played in the child’s death is still unclear.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

For the second time this season, the Rhode Island health department has declared flu widespread. That means that any unvaccinated health care workers must wear surgical masks around patients until the declaration of “widespread” is lifted. Flu was declared widespread in Rhode Island for most of January and February this year. But the health department says this time is more intense than the first.

The dominant strain now affects the elderly, in particular. 13 people have died from flu in Rhode Island this season, all of them in their 80s and 90s.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

That depends on your priorities. But first, here's what's at issue:

The state’s health department is considering updates to its immunization policy for school kids from preschool through college. The proposals would require flu shots for kids up to age five and the HPV vaccine for kids entering ninth grade.

To Curb Flu, Bishop Recommends Changes To Mass

Jan 9, 2014
Catherine Welch / RIPR

One day after the Rhode Island Health Department reported influenza to be widespread in the state, the Catholic diocese of Providence is recommending changes aimed at stemming the spread of the disease.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

It was only a matter of time…

The flu is now widespread in Rhode Island.

That means there are outbreaks of the flu in more than half the state. It also kicks into effect a state requirement that health care professionals who have NOT been vaccinated wear surgical masks whenever they’re in contact with patients. The health department reports that flu-related hospitalizations are up as well.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

While the flu is now widespread in Massachusetts, it’s still sporadic in Rhode Island. But 16 Rhode Islanders have already been hospitalized, and officials expect the number of cases to spike.

Health department officials say so far there have been no flu deaths, but in past years flu has killed well over a hundred people in Rhode Island. They say one of this year’s dominant strains in Rhode Island and nationally is H1N1, but that’s also one of the strains this year’s vaccine protects against. 

Vaccine News Daily

It’s flu season already and that means you’ll be reminded to get a flu vaccine at seemingly every turn.

Should you listen? Is this year any different?

Rhode Island Public Radio’s health care reporter Kristin Gourlay sat down with the head of Rhode Island’s health department, Dr. Michael Fine, for some answers.

Do you have insight or expertise on this topic?  Please email us, we'd like to hear from you. news@ripr.org

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Mar 21, 2013

A Senate committee is scheduled to hear testimony on two competing bills regarding same-sex marriage.  Two lawmakers want to offer in-state tuition rates to all in-state residents, including those which do not have documented status.  These stories and more on the RIPR Morning News Podcast.
Do you have insight or expertise on this topic? Please email us, we'd like to hear from you.  news@ripr.org

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates this year’s flu vaccine was effective about fifty percent of the time. But the vaccine was much less protective for older adults.

The CDC found that vaccinations against influenza types A and B were about 56 percent effective overall. But in people aged 65 and older, the vaccines only worked 27 percent of the time. But Rhode Island Department of Health director Doctor Michael Fine says that’s no reason NOT to get vaccinated.

Rhode Island Department of Health

While flu season is technically still here, Rhode Island’s Department of Health has lifted its declaration of “widespread” flu. More on the state’s response to a tough season.

Department of health head Dr. Michael Fine says he’s pleased that more health care workers and members of the general population got vaccinated against the flu this year than last. But he says the state can do better than 50%.

“If we had vaccinated instead of 500,000 Rhode Islanders, 900,000 or more, we would have expected to see many fewer hospitalizations and many fewer illnesses.”

If you've got the flu, it's bad. Awfully bad. But is this season any worse than unusual? Are hospitals really being overwhelmed by "skyrocketing" cases in an unprecedented outbreak?

  • Sawyer probe continues

State and federal law enforcement agencies are checking the books at the Sawyer School for criminal activity following its abrupt closure just after Christmas. State education officials have recovered student records from the school and are planning to hold an event at CCRI next week to provide transcripts and counseling for students wondering how to proceed with their degrees.