PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — If you haven’t gotten your flu shot yet this year – now may be the time to do so.
The Rhode Island Department of Health announced Thursday that the flu is now considered “widespread” in the state.
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As a result, unvaccinated healthcare workers are now required to wear masks during direct patient contact, according to state Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott.
“The masking requirement helps protect healthcare workers from catching the flu and helps protect patients who are often dealing with other serious health issues,” Dr. Alexander-Scott said. “For people who have not been vaccinated yet, it is not too late. Flu vaccination is the single best way to keep yourself and the people you love safe from the flu.”
According to David A. Lowe, MD Chief of Staff at Kent Hospital, people can transmit the flu a day or two before they show symptoms.
“Widespread” is the highest tier in a five-tier system used to measure flu activity, health officials said. Massachusetts, Connecticut, and many other states throughout the country are also experiencing widespread flu.
Symptoms of the flu include fever and cough or sore throat. Symptoms can also include a runny or stuffy nose, body aches, a headache, chills, fatigue, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Dr. Lowe says the flu is treatable and medication can help, so if you have severe chills and fever you should seek medical attention — your doctor will likely prescribe Tamiflu.
The health department recommends that everyone older than 6 months should be vaccinated for the flu every year. The vaccine is especially important for pregnant women, younger children, people over the age of 50, nursing home or group residents, and people with chronic conditions.
“A lot of people who think, ‘oh well I took the vaccine, but I still got the flu,’ yes, but you didn’t die of it,” Dr. Lowe said.
Flu shots are available at doctors’ offices and pharmacies throughout Rhode Island.