BOSTON – This flu season remains significantly on the increase in Massachusetts, according to the state Department of Public Health’s Weekly Influenza Update.
Laboratory confirmed cases of flu in Massachusetts since October 2017 now stand at 8,152. This is a nearly 43 percent increase, or 2,444 more confirmed cases, from last week.
The Bay State trends mirror much of the country in terms of increases in influenza-related hospitalizations and outpatient visits.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported today that pediatric deaths from the flu, as of Feb. 3, now stands at 63, with one of them in the New England region.
In Massachusetts, hospital admissions for laboratory confirmed cases of flu increased by slightly more than four percent over last week.
The number of laboratory confirmed cases of flu in the state increased in a week to more than the year-to-date number of such cases at this point last season.
Year-to-date laboratory confirmed cases of flu in the state now stand at 8,152. Data tracking for influenza season begins in October.
Last year at this time, there were 2,440 year-to-date laboratory confirmed cases of flu.
The percentage of laboratory confirmed hospitalizations per 1,000 licensed beds was also higher at 43.37, compared with 39.25 for the week ending Feb. 2.
Flu-related visits to outpatient centers in the state continue on the increase – rising to 5.88 percent of all visits. Last week, this percentage was 4.24 percent.
The New England Region’s baseline is 1.4 percent.
All regions within the state show currently high levels of this activity.
The percentage of outpatient visits in the West for influenza-like illnesses as of Feb. 9 is 5.11, compared to 4.01 percent for the week of Feb. 2.
The current percentage in the Central Region of the state is 5.57, compared to last week’s 1.31 percent.
The highest percentage among the regions in Eastern Massachusetts is in the Northeast Region with 8.6 percent of outpatient visits for flu-related conditions, compared to last week’s 5.68 percent.
The West Region of the state continues to have the largest number of total weekly laboratory-confirmed cases for Type A and B flu viruses – some 742 – as well as the total number of year-to-date confirmed cases – some 2,885.
The second highest for the week ending Feb. 9 was the Northeast Region with some 686 laboratory confirmed cases of flu for the week. The Northeast had the second highest total number of year-to-date confirmed cases – 2,885.
The number of actual flu cases is considered much larger since most people are never tested. The reporting of laboratory confirmed cases of flu to the state health department enables tracking of circulating viruses.
The state also does additional testing of some samples to further detect circulating subtypes of viruses. For the 2017-2018 season to date, 98 cases of A/H3N2 influenza, 12 cases of A/2009 H1N1, 31 cases of B/Yamagata, and 3 cases of B/Victoria have been confirmed in 289 cases tested.
This year’s nationwide severe flu season has been blamed on strains of the Type A virus, particularly H3N2 for which the flu vaccine has not been a good match.
Vaccination is still recommended, especially for its protection against the Type B strains which are said to be increasing in circulation in some parts of the country.