Maine suffered the worst flu season in at least five years, with 9,018 cases in 2017-18, an increase of more than 50 percent from last season.
The flu season runs from October to the end of May, and the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention completed its weekly flu season reports last week. The agency counted 1,750 hospital stays to go with the 9,018 reported cases and surpass the 5,830 cases in 2016-17. Eighty-two people died in Maine from the flu, according to Maine CDC, compared with 71 the previous season.
 DR. Siiri Bennett, state epidemiologist at CDC Maine, said it's difficult to compare flu seasons, because different strains of the virus circulate and Maine's coverage of cases improves every year. Bennett said part of the increase was due to better reporting by doctors' offices and health organizations, though there is no doubt that 201
"It was certainly a very heavy flu season," Bennett said.
Dr. Kolawole Bankole, director of the Portland Public Health Division, said the flu is "big time" this season.
Influenza cases accelerated in December, peaking in February, before plummeting in mid-March and April. May began a sharp decline in flu cases.
Influenza is much more common than what is reported publicly because the data represent positive laboratory tests for influenza. Many more Maisers catch the flu, but recover at home and are not tested.
The US CDC also reported that this year's flu season was severe nationwide and widespread in all states except Hawaii.
The early to middle flu season was dominated this year by the H3N2 influenza A virus, a more virulent influenza virus that typically results in higher hospitalization rates. In January, about 25 percent of cases required patients to be hospitalized. But the second half of the flu season saw the emergence of influenza B and other influenza strains, which are usually milder versions. By the end of the season, the hospitalization rate had dropped to 19 percent of all cases. About 60 to 70 percent of all flu cases in Maine were influenza A H3N2.
Bennett said it's not uncommon for the prevalent variety to change in the middle of the flu season.
"I'm not sure why, but there is often a shift during the season," she said. Nationally, the US CDC reported 223,487 positive tests for the flu, with about two-thirds of the cases being influenza A.
Also this season the flu vaccine According to the US CDC, it was 36 percent lower than in the previous two years , The vaccine was 48 percent effective in 2016-17 and 59 percent effective in 2015-16.
Bennett said the CDC "recommends" vaccination, even in years, if the vaccine is not as effective. The vaccine is never 100 percent effective because scientists have to predict months before those influenza strains that occur most often to bring the vaccine to market in time for the flu season.
"Even if a vaccine were only 25 percent effective, it would prevent many hospitalizations," Bennett said. "If you can prevent a certain number of hospitalizations and deaths, it's worth it."
For those who receive influenza vaccine and are still suffering from influenza, the symptoms are milder and not as long as research has shown. 19659002] The National Institutes of Health reported in April that scientists are working on a new influenza vaccine that would provide "comprehensive protection against various influenza virus strains" that would significantly improve the vaccine's efficacy.
Symptoms include fever, chills, muscle pains, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, headache, fatigue, and cough. Along with vaccinations, healthcare providers say basic hygiene, such as frequent hand washing; get a lot of sleep; The prevention of flu outbreaks is prevented by the avoidance of sick people.
Among the 141 outbreaks reported to institutions – one outbreak being defined as three or more cases in one place – were 116 in long-term care facilities, z
"This is the population most at risk", Bennett said, "because people are often immune-compromised and as people get older, the body just does not respond to infections as efficiently."
The average age of a patient hospitalized for this flu this season, according to Maine CDC data, was 60.
Bankle said that Portland recognized the severity of the flu season this year and partnered with the Visiting Nurse Association went to operate vaccination clinics in the City Hall.
These efforts will be improved and expanded for the next flu season, Bankole said. He added that the city will also work more with hospitals and the city's homeless shelter to improve policy when homeless people are hospitalized.
Bankole said that if a patient was homeless and discharged from the hospital after a positive examination, Portland Public Health wants to ensure that quarantine procedures in homeless shelters are respected, as patients are often contagious when admitted to hospital Community residences return.
"It was certainly a very heavy flu season". said Dr. Siiri Bennett, epidemiologist at the CDC in Maine. (Portland Press Herald Photo Illustration)