First Cases Of Flu Identified In Massachusetts
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) today announced that some flu activity has begun to be seen across the state, indicating that flu season has begun. The announcement coincides with National Influenza Vaccination Week and underscores the importance of getting vaccinated against the flu to keep healthy throughout the fall and winter months.
DPH has received a total of 60 reports of positive influenza laboratory tests from across the state so far this flu season. Last year at this time, there were 100 reports of influenza. Seasonal flu is beginning to be seen across the United States as well – a total of 23 states had reported some level of influenza activity as of the week ending November 29.
State health officials estimate that every year an average of 2,600 Massachusetts residents are hospitalized due to complications from the flu, resulting in up to 800 deaths. It is not too late to get a flu shot even in December or January because flu season doesn’t usually peak until February or March.
“Many of these hospitalizations and deaths are preventable, and prevention begins with getting the flu vaccine,” said DPH Commissioner John Auerbach.
“The good news is that there is more influenza vaccine available this year than ever before in Massachusetts, and there is still time to get vaccinated,” added Auerbach. “In Massachusetts, over 2.6 million doses of influenza vaccine have been distributed, including 808,000 doses of state-supplied vaccine.”
Influenza vaccine is recommended for everyone who wants to avoid getting the flu, or from spreading the flu to others. The vaccine is especially important for those who are at higher risk for complications from the flu, including:
* Children six months – 18 years old;
* Everyone 50 years of age and older;
* Pregnant women;
* Children and adults with chronic medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease, asthma, diabetes, or immune systems weakened by disease, such as HIV infection, or chemotherapy.
In addition to getting vaccinated, people can help protect themselves and others from the flu and other respiratory diseases by washing their hands often, covering the nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, and staying home from work and school when they are sick.