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Flu season ramping up
The Patriot Ledger - 12/17/2018
Dec. 17--If it seems as though everyone you know is sick, it's because they are.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Massachusetts was the first state to see the flu spread across wide areas of the state, beginning in late November. Georgia and California soon followed.
The state Department of Health says the greatest increase in flu-like illnesses last week was in the northeast part of the state. The department said there was a 2.83 percent increase in flu-like illnesses reported by health care providers in that part of the state through Friday.
The South Shore down to Cohasset had a 1.43 percent increase with a 1.84 percent increase in Marshfield and farther south.
The department said in the past week there have been 164 laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu reported, which doesn't include all cases since most aren't tested. Since the beginning of the year there have been 548 laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu.
The state overall had a 1.6 percent increase in flu-like illnesses reported to the department, a slight increase over this time last year and around a percentage point greater than two years ago.
Dr. Jason Tracy, chief of emergency medicine at South Shore Hospital, said it is still too early to tell if this flu season will be worse than others, but it's getting into full swing.
"We've seen an increase in patients coming in with flu symptoms in the past one to two weeks," Tracy said. "We'll see the flu really pick up over the next few months into January and February."
The CDC said the country last year had the "highest burden" from the flu since 2009 with 48.8 million reported illnesses.
Tracy said the vast majority of people can manage flu symptoms with home care, primary care or urgent care.
"Treating the flu at home can also help prevent it from spreading to other people," he said.
He and other medical experts, including the CDC, say patients with the flu don't need to visit an emergency room unless symptoms are severe.
The number of urgent care clinics -- storefront medical centers that treat common illnesses, including the flu -- has exploded across the South Shore over the past few years, rising from 18 in 2010 to 145 at the end of last year.
That number doesn't include 57 "retail clinics" now operating out of CVS pharmacies in Massachusetts that say they can also treat the flu. South Shore Hospital has a partnership with a chain of urgent care clinics called Health Express.
Tracy said it's not too late for people to get the flu shot to try to avoid getting sick altogether.
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