EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

December 4, 2012

Risk prevention

Flu season has started, but there's time for a shot

New Hampshire is seeing “sporadic” flu activity in what federal health officials are saying is an early and potentially bad season.

The flu is all around.

Massachusetts and Maine are among seven states that have regional flu outbreaks within their borders, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

“It looks like it’s shaping up to be a bad flu season, but only time will tell,” CDC chief Dr. Thomas Frieden said.

In the Bay State, it’s too soon to tell.

“We have a few cases that are identified, so there’s some influenza out there,” said Dr. Alfred DeMaria, medical director for the Massachusetts Bureau of Infectious Disease Prevention.

The outlook for Massachusetts is hard to predict, he said.

“It seems to be what we usually see this time of year,” DeMaria said. “We have peak influenza activity in February, but we usually see a little bit of activity before the holidays.”

New Hampshire confirmed its first case of flu in late September, a couple of weeks before what the CDC regards as the official start of flu season.

“Right now, we’re seeing sporadic activity,” said Marcella Bobinsky, who oversees New Hampshire’s immunization program for the Division of Public Health Services.

That means isolated cases throughout the state of lab-confirmed cases with flu-like activity, she said.

“It’s not like every physician in the state is sending in samples,” she said.

Last year was a relatively light flu year for New Hampshire, she said.

“We had 130 lab confirmed cases during the last influenza season,” Bobinsky said.

This year could be different.

“The CDC message is essentially it’s coming,” Bobinsky said.

New Hampshire could be due for a bad year, but it’s not certain.

“We never know until we’ve finished that flu season,” Bobinsky said.

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