The director of the Rhode Island Department of Health on Wednesday declared the flu to be widespread again in Rhode Island.
The declaration triggers a requirement for health care workers who haven't been vaccinated for flu to wear surgical masks when seeing patients.
Dr. Michael Fine said Rhode Island is seeing a second wave of flu that is even more intense than the first. The dominant strains in this late-season wave have been H3N2, which has a great impact on the elderly, and influenza B.
The state said most of the 13 flu-related deaths this season have been people in their 80s and 90s. There have been 464 flu-related hospitalizations this season. Seventy of the hospitalizations occurred from April 6-12.
Fine said it's not too late to get a flu shot and that there is plenty of vaccine available in Rhode Island. This year's flu vaccine protects against all of the dominate strains in circulation.
"This continues to be a dangerous flu season for the elderly," Fine said in a statement. "Vaccination is important for everyone older than 6 months of age, but it is particularly important for the elderly, people who are around the elderly, and healthcare workers."
Fine said the masking requirement for health care workers will remain in effect until the widespread declaration is lifted.
A widespread flu declaration was previously in effect this year from Jan. 8 to Feb. 27.