More than four times the number of people in Massachusetts has contracted the flu this season compared to last winter. But the figures are lower in the central part of the state than in other regions.
This season there have been 2,872 cases of influenza confirmed by laboratory, compared to 823 during the 2016-2017 season, according to the State Department. Health. The northeastern part of the state has the highest activity rate of the disease at 3.91 percent. According to the DPH, the reported activity level of 2.21 in downtown Massachusetts is one of the lowest in the state.
DPH spokesman Omar Cabrera said the agency still does not know the number of suspected flu deaths this season. According to reports, a 51-year-old Needham woman and a 68-year-old Swampscott music teacher died recently after getting the flu.
"Because influenza-related deaths are due to other complications, we must estimate the total number of deaths triggered by influenza." According to national methods, the DPH estimates that between 250 and 1,100 Massachusetts residents die annually due to influenza. complications of the flu, "Mr. Cabrera said in an email.
The flu is widespread in all states except Hawaii. There were almost 75,000 cases throughout the country, 14,000 of them just last week. But the actual number of cases is considerably higher, since many people who get the flu do not go to a doctor.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 children have died from complications of the flu. States are not required to report deaths associated with influenza from people over 18 years of age. But several states have reported dozens of adult deaths from the disease.
Dr. George M. Abraham, interim chief of medicine and interim head of infectious diseases at St. Vincent's Hospital, said the hospital has seen an increase of 10 to 15 percent in the number of adults admitted for treatment of the flu. The hospital does not have a pediatric department for inpatients.
He said that this flu season is similar to others in the past. The problem this year is that the virus has mutated so that the vaccine and the virus do not coincide. The current vaccine has material against two types of each of strains A and B. This year, one of the strains A – H3N2 – has a 10 percent coincidence with the vaccine, he said. Then, in 90 percent of cases of H3N2, the virus does not provide protection.
As a result, 95 percent of flu cases this year are strain A, which are usually seen at the beginning of the flu season. Strain B of the virus usually affects people in late February and early March.
"We are seeing more activity because this is when they hit Massachusetts, our flu season starts in mid-December (and passes) in the middle of March. There are simply more groupings, more cases in a shorter time frame, to make it seem more aggressive, "he said." This is the time of year when we see more A (strain), so we still do not know if the vaccine will cover B (strain). We are assuming that it will be a good combination. We have not heard anything else. "
He said the flu seems to be a little worse than usual in other parts of the country." That's why the CDC has recommended that people start a flu treatment, even if it is not positive for the flu in a nasal swab. "
He said that it is very difficult to differentiate between a cold and the flu.The flu usually causes fever and muscle aches.But other symptoms: runny nose and cough or similar to a cold.
Dr. Abraham He said it is not too late for people to get vaccinated against the flu, which could decrease the likelihood that the disease will spread The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months or older, especially seniors, pregnant women and other people at high risk of complications from the flu receive the annual vaccination.
"Even if one of the strains is not compatible, the vaccine will protect them against other stresses," he said. Immunized people create a blanket so that the virus does not spread to the most vulnerable population … the elderly … the weak people … who receive chemotherapy. "