Maine CDC Reports 21 Influenza-Related Deaths

Twenty-one individuals have died due to complications from influenza so far this season, Maine's CDC confirmed Friday.

The Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there's "widespread" flu activity in all 16 counties. Maine had reported 1,187 cases of people who had tested positive for flu through Jan. 13.

"This year, right now, appears to be predominantly influenza AH3 season, which tends to be more severe and it tends to affect the elderly more than younger individuals, which means we see more hospitalizations and we see more deaths," said Maine CDC epidemiologist Sara Robinson.

All of the 21 individuals who passed away were at least 55 years old or older, officials said. As of last Saturday, the Maine CDC reports 327 flu-related hospitalizations.

Influenza Surveillance Report (Week Ending Jan. 27, 2018)
Click on each state for more information.

Data: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Nina Lin/NBC

At this point in 2017, there were only two influenza-related deaths in the entire state, according to health officials.

"Flu is everywhere in the U.S. right now," CDC's Dr. Daniel Jernigan told NBC News. "There's lots of flu in lots of places."

Jernigan added that while this flu season may be severe, it's not shaping up to be record-setting.

The concern about the virus is spreading, and it has prompted new protocols at Catholic Churches. The Portland Diocese has advised all 141 churches in the state to temporarily halt certain rituals, such as shaking hands, sharing wine and receiving communion on the tongue.

Left: Reported Flu Activity for the Week of Dec. 31, 2016 (Week 52); Right: Reported Flu Activity for the Week of Dec. 30, 2017 (Week 52)
Data: CDC

"If you're sick, the Sunday Mass obligation is lifted," said diocese communications director Dave Guthro. "These are some of the small things we can do that don't take away from the spirit of Mass. [The Bishop] felt it was important to do anything we could to try and help people be safe and healthy."

Parishioners in Portland said they appreciated the proactive, hands-off approach.

"Anything we can do to protect ... I think it's a great idea," said Susan Mack. "There's a lot of elderly people that go to Mass."

Flu deaths have been reported elsewhere in New England. In Massachusetts, a beloved Swampscott teacher passed away this week, and elementary schools have been closed to allow staff members to attend her funeral.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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