By NewsDesk  @bactiman63

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is reporting a sharp increase in seasonal influenza (flu) activity statewide.

A person receives the seasonal influenza vaccine (flu shot).

All 16 counties are experiencing a sustained increase in flu activity. There were 63 influenza-associated hospitalizations reported to Maine CDC last week, a 152 percent increase from the previous week. Of those hospitalizations, nearly 50 percent were in people age 65 and older. This year, Maine CDC has reported 3,446 positive influenza tests, 110 hospitalizations, and 31 outbreaks, suggesting a higher and more rapid increase in flu activity than is typical for this time of the year.

The best protection is the flu vaccine, which is recommended for those aged 6 months and older.

“Maine’s flu season is undeniably here but it’s not too late to protect yourself and your loved ones in time for holiday gatherings,” said Maine CDC Director Nirav D. Shah. “This year’s flu vaccine is a good match for the strains of the virus circulating in Maine and across the country. Getting your flu vaccine is the most effective way to prevent the spread of flu, as well as its worst impacts.”

Flu vaccination can reduce the risk of illness, visits to the doctor, and missed work or school. The flu vaccine can also reduce the severity of the illness. Studies show the flu vaccine saves children’s lives and prevents serious events associated with chronic lung disease, diabetes, and heart disease. It also helps prevent flu-related hospitalization among working-age and older adults.

In addition to getting vaccinated, people can take the following steps to reduce the spread of illness:

  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Wash your hands
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects