The state has already registered 18 deaths from individuals with flu-like symptoms, and for every 1,000 hospital beds there are more than 40 hospitalizations for flu-like symptoms, which include respiratory problems and a fever, according to a presentation Cranston made to the Public Health Council yesterday morning. Cranston said the deaths occurred among older individuals.
If the number of infections continues to grow, Massachusetts could experience the first severe flu season, since the H1N1, or swine flu, pandemic in the spring and into the fall of 2009.
“It certainly looks like we’re in the direction to be similar,” interim Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Lauren Smith said.
Bracey said the city has an ample supply of influenza vaccine and is still offering free flu shots by appointment with the public health nurse.
“The city health department strongly encourages all residents, especially individuals with certain medical conditions, compromised immune systems and children to be vaccinated against the influenza virus and advises everyone to constantly wash hands frequently and often, especially before meals,” Bracey said, adding there are six to eight more weeks left in the flu season.
Bracey added that although there are several influenza strains infecting people this year, the influenza vaccine is 91 percent effective against what appears to be this year’s predominant strain, Type A H3.
An Anna Jaques Hospital spokesperson could not comment on the hospital’s plans and statistics on local cases by presstime.
The State House News Service contributed to this report.