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Advancing Care - November/December 2022

Advancing Care Prostate Exam

Do You Really Need a Prostate Exam?

Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in American men, behind only lung cancer. Joseph Brito, MD, a urologist at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital and an associate professor of Urology at Yale School of Medicine, sees patients with urologic cancers in collaboration with the Smilow Cancer Hospital Care Center in Waterford and the Prostate and Urologic Cancers Program at Smilow Cancer Hospital. Here he offers advice about the importance of rectal exams, PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood tests and screenings for prostate cancer.

Read more about needing a Prostate Exam

Why You Should Get a Flu Vaccine This Year

For almost three years now, the news has focused primarily on COVID-19 and the coronavirus. But healthcare professionals want people to remember another respiratory virus: seasonal influenza.

Influenza is a viral infection that attacks your respiratory system — your nose, throat and lungs. Influenza is commonly called the “flu,” but it's not the same as stomach "flu" viruses that cause diarrhea and vomiting. Common signs and symptoms of the flu include fever, aching muscles, cough and sore throat, headache and fatigue. Influenza and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses.

Learn more about the differences between flu and COVID-19

The exact timing and duration of flu seasons can vary, but influenza activity often begins to increase in October. Most of the time flu activity peaks between December and February, although it can last as late as May.

“We usually say that flu is predictably unpredictable,” said Robin Heard-Albert RN, infection prevention site lead at Westerly Hospital. “However, we are already seeing an uptick in influenza circulating in our area, so people should get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

Nearly 10 percent of the U.S. population gets sick from flu each season, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). While most people will recover from a case of the flu on their own, doctors may recommend antivirals for those at high-risk of health complications, such as pneumonia. The CDC estimates there were a record-high 61,000 flu deaths in the U.S. during the 2017-2018 season.

Over the past few years the U.S. experienced relatively mild flu seasons. That’s because people were wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, avoiding mass transportation and generally staying home to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Many people were continuing to work remotely, students were not in school and there wasn’t much travel. All of these prevention tools, which help to stop COVID-19 from spreading, also keeps the flu viruses from spreading, according to Heard-Albert.

“We need people to be attentive. Flu is still a major public health threat and poses a risk to everyone, including healthy children, teens, adults and pregnant individuals,” she said.

Another concern this year is respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), said Richard Martinello, MD, medical director of Infection Prevention at Yale New Haven Health. RSV is a common seasonal virus that poses particular risks to pregnant women, immunocompromised children and adults, and adults older than 65. It is a leading cause of infant mortality around the globe and is especially dangerous to prematurely born babies. “We are also seeing an unusually early and significant RSV season,” he said.

“Hospitals across the U.S., including Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital, are inundated with children with RSV right now. And among older adults, RSV causes about 14,000 deaths per year.”

So what should you know about this coming fall and winter? YNHHS experts recommend the following safety measures:

  1. Get a flu vaccine. Dr. Martinello said the best way to protect yourself from the flu is to get your yearly flu shot. It’s safe and recommended for everyone 6 months or older, including pregnant women, unless you’re known to have a severe allergy to the flu shot.

    “Contact your primary care provider or local walk-in care location for more information and to schedule your flu vaccination as soon as possible,” he said. “After you get your flu vaccine, your body takes about 2 weeks to build immunity to flu.”

    Dr. Martinello adds that you can get your flu vaccine at the same time as a COVID-19 vaccine or booster. It’s recommended you get them in different arms.
  2. Continue to practice physical distancing and wearing masks. “COVID-19 and influenza are both viruses that spread through respiratory droplets. So, the strategies people can employ to minimize the spread of the influenza virus are very similar to the practices used to control the spread of COVID-19,” said Heard-Albert.
  3. Wash your hands. Frequently and thoroughly washing hands with soap and water removes or greatly reduces the likelihood of transmitting viruses. At minimum, hands should be washed before preparing or eating food, after using the bathroom and after touching surfaces that others have touched (like doorknobs and light switches in public places).
  4. Stay home if you feel sick. People who feel unwell or who have symptoms of influenza such as fever, body aches, sore throat or coughs should stay away from others to avoid transmission.
  5. Get tested if you are sick.  Because some symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, people may need to be tested to tell what virus is causing their illness. People can be infected with both a flu virus and the virus that causes COVID-19 at the same time.

One thing Heard-Albert knows for sure: it’s best to be prepared. Take the proper precautions, be alert and consult a physician or health professional if symptoms are concerning.  "Every flu season is unique. Every time we think we know what will happen, it will do something totally different,” she said.

Free Programs at Westerly Hospital: Bladder Health, Back Pain and Preventing Falls

The Westerly Hospital Wednesday Wellness series returns this month. The series features a total of three free programs covering a variety of health topics and are available both in person and online.

  • Understanding Bladder Health for Men and Women
    Learn about prevention and treatment for common urinary symptoms that affect men and women as they age.
    November 30, 5 – 6 pm
    Speaker: George Turini, MD, urology
  • Suffering From Low Back Pain?
    Find out about the causes of low back pain and ways to manage your symptoms.
    December 7, 5 – 6 pm
    Speaker: Woo Jin Lee, MD, pain medicine/pain management
  • Preventing Falls: Making Your Home a Safer Place
    Learn safety tips on how to avoid falls and ways to improve your balance.
    December 14, 5 – 6 pm
    Speaker: Shelby Buck, MSPT, physical therapy
All programs are held at Westerly Hospital’s Henry J. Nardone Conference Center, 25 Wells St., Westerly. There is no charge for these programs, but in-person attendance is limited. Registration is required for both the webinars and in-person programs. Call 1-800-636-2824 or sign up at Events.

Learn How to "Stop the Bleed" With Free Class at L+M

Did you know that someone who is bleeding heavily can bleed to death in as little as five minutes? Whether at home or out in public, knowing how to control bleeding can make a life-or-death difference. Lawrence + Memorial Hospital is sponsoring free training sessions that will teach basic bleeding control techniques you can use in an emergency situation.

The STOP THE BLEED® workshop includes a hands-on practice of applying direct pressure, packing a wound, and using a tourniquet to stop bleeding. The sessions will be held at L+M, 365 Montauk Avenue, New London on the following dates:

  • Tues., Dec. 6, from 5 - 6 pm
  • Wed., Jan. 18, 2023, from 5 – 6 pm

To register, please contact Jessica Mancarella, Trauma program manager, at 860-271-4812 or email [email protected].

Uncontrolled bleeding is the number one cause of preventable death, after injury, in the world. STOP THE BLEED® was launched in October of 2015 by the White House, with a call to action to begin training more people to become immediate responders until professional help arrives. More information about the program is available at:

Find a Doc at L+M or WH

Are you looking for a physician? Call 833-346-3637 or visit our website’s Find a Doctor feature for information on physician specialties, office hours and locations as well as insurance plans accepted. Many of our physician practices offer telehealth video visits for your convenience.

Billing Questions?

Yale New Haven Health offers financial counseling to patients and families. Spanish-speaking counselors are also available. To make an appointment with a financial counselor, call 855-547-4584.