Boston Issues Flu Emergency following 18 Deaths Statewide

The city of Boston declared a public health emergency as the city tried to deal with a harsh, early flu season and the state is reporting 18 flu-related deaths so far. But state officials are taking a more measured tone. 

At the State House, Governor Deval Patrick encouraged the public to use common sense protections:

“You know it’s a great opportunity for me to remind people to get a flu shot.  I hate needles and I got one.  Wash your hands, cough into your elbows.  You know, some of the basic practices that help reduce the risk.”

In Boston, mayor Thomas Menino declared a state of emergency. Hospitals across the state are taking precautions not seen since the H1N1 “swine flu” pandemic”.  In Springfield, for example, Baystate Medical Center banned visitors younger than 14.  Umass Memorial in Worcester is only allowing patients to have two visitors at a time. State health officials say the hospitals’ measures are preventive and normal during an outbreak. Kevin Cranston, the head of infectious diseases at the state department of public health, says it’s still too early to tell how bad flu season will be.

“This is an atypical season in many respects in that we have seen earlier activity.  But we have flu season every year of course.  The last two years have been particularly mild so it was off of people’s radar screen.”

Cranston says its not too late to get a flu shot. The CDC reports the flu vaccine is the best way to prevent against the flu but its only about 60 percent effective.  It also takes two weeks to kick in.