EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


January 10, 2013

Mass. flu season off to early start

18 deaths recorded so far


She added, “we are seeing an uptick, but it’s manageable.”

Mary Connolly, community health nurse in Haverhill, said she is hearing reports from area hospitals that it’s higher than normal.

“But it’s not the epidemic I heard it was reported in Boston,” she said.

She’s heard of people with headaches, fever, body aches and some respiratory symptoms, even though they may have received the flu shot.

“Getting the flu shot reduces the severity and duration of symptoms,” she said.

In Boston, meanwhile, the situation has reached epidemic levels.

“This is the worst flu season we’ve seen since 2009, and people should take the threat of flu seriously,” said Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. “This is not only a health concern, but also an economic concern for families, and I’m urging residents to get vaccinated if they haven’t already. It’s the best thing you can do to protect yourself and your family. If you’re sick, please stay home from work or school.”

Flu cases are now accounting for over 4 percent of all emergency department visits at Boston hospitals, compared to about 1 percent during non-influenza season.

Of influenza cases reported to date in Boston residents, 25 percent have been ill enough to require hospitalization. Since Oct. 1, four Boston residents, all seniors, have died from flu-related illnesses. Certain people, including the elderly, young children, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease or other conditions), are at greater risk for serious illness if they get influenza. Some individuals may not be at risk for severe illness themselves, but can transmit the infection to their families, friends, and patients.

State public health officials are reporting 18 flu-related deaths in Massachusetts already this season.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health says the state is one of many across the country reporting above average flu hospitalization rates. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned of a harsh flu season, which usually peaks in midwinter.

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