Officials: Change in reporting caused increase in Meriden flu cases

Officials: Change in reporting caused increase in Meriden flu cases

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MERIDEN – The number of reported flu cases in Meriden rose 75 percent this past flu season, but health officials said the numbers aren’t cause for concern. 

Health Director Lea Crown said the increase in reported cases from 351 during the 2017-18 flu season to 614 in 2018-19 was likely caused by a change in the way flu cases were tested by some local urgent care clinics. Some clinics changed to a testing method called polymerase chain reaction, which required them, under state law, to report the flu cases to the city. In years past, the clinics used a testing method that didn’t require reporting of flu cases. 

The 2018-19 figures were released by the city this week.

“Many factors can contribute to apparent changes in flu activity observed in season-to-season comparisons, especially within small geographic areas,” Elizabeth Conklin, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Health, said in an email. “For example, one factor that contributed to the apparent large increase in flu activity this season within the Meriden-Cheshire area are two urgent care centers, which began reporting results of PCR-testing of outpatients this year.”

The flu case numbers included in the city’s annual report only reflect lab-confirmed cases reported to the health department. Local health departments receive a report when flu is diagnosed by a health provider, hospital or laboratory.

Among age groups, the under 18 group recorded the most positive cases with 255, according to the report. Crown said the department plans to ramp up its outreach and prevention efforts for children for the 2019-20 flu season. 

The flu, also known as Influenza, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses and can cause mild to severe illness. Flu season in America this year lasted from Oct. 1 to May 19, the report states. 

Crown said this is the second year the city has released a flu report, which she said helps guide future outreach and prevention efforts. The city began closely monitoring flu case numbers for the 2016-17 flu season, during which they received reports of 287 confirmed cases. 

The flu season in Meriden peaked the week of February 18, 2019, with 65 positive lab reports.

Connecticut municipalities can differ in how closely they monitor flu data, making it difficult to compare between towns. According to the Department of Public Health, a total of 10,213 influenza positive laboratory tests have been reported during the most recent flu season. A total of 78 deaths from flu were reported.
Twitter: @MatthewZabierek