Health officials are awaiting new data on the flu season out today to see if the epidemic’s spread has peaked in the Bay State or if it is just hitting its stride.
Massachusetts saw a near 3 percent drop in reports of influenza-like illnesses during the first week of the year, according to the Department of Public Health. If the decline extends to a second week, it could mean the worst of the flu season has passed, said Department of Public Health epidemiologist Dr. Alfred DeMaria Jr.
“If week two goes down, I think that is a much more likely to represent the actual trend,” DeMaria told the Herald. “It’s hard to predict the flu. Talking to colleagues in the community they still think it’s bad.”
DeMaria noted the week ending Jan. 6 includes holidays where people are traveling or are more comfortable weathering an illness at home, and less likely to go to a doctor’s office where the illness would be reported.
Dr. Graham Snyder, associate epidemiologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, said flu activity is still increasing at the hospital.
“I don’t believe we’ve seen the peak yet,” Snyder said. “We are still seeing increases in activity. We are seeing cases of severe influenza. … We are seeing young people and old people and everyone in the middle.
Every state in the U.S. except Hawaii is reporting widespread influenza activity. Hospitalizations are high, but not as high as the tough 2014-2015 season. The predominant influenza strain this year has in past years caused more severe outcomes, especially for the young and elderly with compromised immune systems.
Like every flu season, some die from the flu, but the season hasn’t proved more deadly than past years.
Snyder said people with the flu concerned about what to do should call their doctor about appropriate treatment. He said it’s not too late to get the flu shot.
DeMaria said the DPH is monitoring clusters of flu outbreaks in schools and vulnerable populations at long-term care facilities across the state. He said the widely reported cases of deaths from the flu could spur some to get the shot.