Maine host to "widespread" influenza outbreak

7:20 PM, Jan 4, 2013   |    comments
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LEWISTON, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The Centers for Disease Control is reporting 41 states with widespread influenza outbreaks, and Maine is one of them.

The CDC's latest report shows a spike in influenza like illnesses in the last recorded week, ending on Dec. 29.

Doctors in Maine are seeing the same kind of spike in their emergency rooms, with Lewiston's St. Mary's Hospital averaging 20-25 suspected influenza patients each day, for the last week.

"We've seen so many cases, that we've actually run out of test kits," said Dr. Joan Flint, an emergency room physician at St. Mary's.

She said the hospital received a new shipment of the kits Friday, and she expects to keep using them quickly.

"This year, we're seeing a lot of patients that didn't get vaccinated," said Dr. Flint.

She, and other doctors are urging people to get flu shots, available at most drug stores.

"It is the wisest thing that people can do," said Dr. Imad Durra, an Infectious Disease Specialist at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston.

He said this year's flu season started several weeks earlier than usual, and has led to more hospital visits.

One reason, he suspects, is because of the reemergence of an old strain of the flu: H3N2.

In recent years, the prevalent strain has been H1N1 -- so it's possible that many people are lacking immunity to the old H3N2 strain.

Doctors say symptoms of influenza include fever, achy muscles, and rapid onset of sickness.

Young children and the elderly are especially vulnerable. Doctors advise people to seek medical attention  -- and at the very least, stay home.


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