RI declares flu to be "widespread" in state

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island's top health official says influenza is now widespread in the state.

The declaration is a formal step that means healthcare workers who haven't been immunized against the flu must wear masks when dealing with patients.

State health director Michael Fine says the state is seeing increased flu activity and that across the nation the number of cases is already higher than all of last season.

The state says more than 30 people have been hospitalized since Oct. 1 with flu-like illnesses.

The vaccine is recommended for anyone six months and older. Health officials say it's especially important for people to get immunized if they are pregnant, work in healthcare, are older than 50, have a chronic condition or live with people with a high risk of flu complications.

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