First Cases of Flu Confirmed in Massachusetts
I’ve been reporting on this for weeks. Now it’s official.
BOSTON Dec. 5 — Health officials in Massachusetts have confirmed the first two cases of the influenza virus and are trying to find out if it is from the same strain being blamed for the deaths of children in other states.
The state Department of Public Health said Thursday that a 36-year-old woman and a 77-year-old man in the western part of the state have contracted influenza. Officials said both are recuperating at home.
Tests from the two cases have been sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to determine which strain of the virus they have.
So far this year, the flu is being blamed for the deaths of at least six children in Colorado, three in Texas and one each in Oklahoma and New Mexico.
Authorities in Indiana also were investigating whether the death of a 10-year-old girl might be that state’s first from influenza this season. The child died Wednesday at a hospital in Indianapolis.
Children are particularly susceptible because their bodies have not previously been exposed to the virus that infects the nose, throat and lungs, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In a typical year 36,000 Americans die from the influenza virus, but flu researchers expect a higher death toll this year.
The flu season usually stretches from October to May, peaking in December and January, but this year cases were reported in some Western states as early as September.
Texas was the first state this season where the flu was considered widespread, the CDC’s most severe ranking. Nine other states Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arkansas, Tennessee and Pennsylvania have since been classified as having widespread flu outbreaks.
More than 6,300 flu cases have been reported in Colorado, more than in the previous two years combined. North Dakota has tallied 292 flu cases so far, compared to just two this time last year.
Most of the outbreak this fall has been a strain called A-Fujian-H3N2, which was not selected for this year’s flu vaccine, according to the CDC. Health experts say the strain is closely related to the strain the vaccine targets, A-Panama-H3N2.