• Number of Mass. flu cases 50 times greater than same time last year


    (FOX 25 / MyFoxBoston.com) – Health officials say there have been thousands more reported flu cases this season than the same time last season.

    (Click here to see free flu clinics in Mass.)

    The flu outbreak is growing by the day, and so are the lines at clinics in communities everywhere dealing with a sudden demand for flu shots.

    The illness is spreading, Boston has declared a health emergency, and some clinics are running out of the vaccine. Compared to the last two flu seasons, this one is like a slap in the face. To make matters worse, it is striking earlier than normal. The flu season typically peaks in February.

    For many the pressure is on to get the flu shot, but health experts say there is still time and no need to panic.

    At the Joseph M. Smith Community Health Center in Waltham, the flu outbreak has some on pins and needles.

    One family came from Charlton, an hour away, for the free clinic. Organizers expected the 180 available doses to go fast.

    The Massachusetts Department of Health confirms more than 6,000 reported cases of influenza so far this season, compared to 120 this time last year.

    On Wednesday, Boston declared a heath emergency and encouraged people to get vaccinated.

    It's not a 100-percent guarantee against the virus, but health experts say it's the best defense.

    "This year's vaccine is a pretty close match to the strain we are seeing – and that's all the more reason for folks to get vaccinated," said Liz Brown, Exec. Dir. of the Joseph M. Smith Community Health Center said.

    The high demand for vaccines is causing isolated shortages. Several pharmacies, including the CVS on Washington Street in West Newtown, had to turn people away.

    State health officials say this should discourage anyone because there is still an ample supply nationwide.

    Despite the uptick in flu cases, state health administrators say they are not seeing any significant increases in school absenteeism.

    The only plus of this early flu season is come February, the worst could be over.

    (Click here to see free flu clinics in Mass.)


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