EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


January 10, 2013

Mass. flu season off to early start

18 deaths recorded so far


Casper said that most students should already have received the vaccine, but that younger students needing a second dose should make sure they call the public health department or their primary care physician.

Further, she said, there have already been some cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, reported in Massachusetts. She urged people to get the pertussis vaccination as well.

Sawyer, of North Andover, said senior citizens are susceptible to contracting pneumonia if they get the flu. As such, the town is holding a pneumonia vaccine clinic later this month.

While there have been no deaths reported in the Merrimack Valley, health officials across the state have recorded 18 deaths from influenza so far this season, according to state Bureau of Infectious Disease Director Kevin Cranston.

While it’s still too soon for a full assessment, the flu season is “off to an early start” and is so far “consistent with a moderately severe season,” Cranston told reporters on Wednesday.

“The last two seasons were actually quite mild,” Cranston said. This season’s vaccines “anticipated the viral strains very well,” and there are “ample supplies” of the vaccines, Cranston said. “The vaccine is a good and vigorous response to the epidemic,” Cranston said.

The medication Tamiflu is also effective against this season’s strains, Cranston said. The epidemic is region-wide, and the deaths have occurred “overwhelmingly among oldest individuals,” Cranston said.

The hospitalization rates are also “significant,” Cranston said. In addition to influenza, the state has experienced an outbreak of norovirus, also known as the stomach flu.

“We’ve seen a lot of norovirus this year,” Cranston said.

Material from the State House News Service and Associated Press was used in this report.



Flu Symptoms

- People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:

- Fever or feeling feverish/chills

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