CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) - The flu season is off to a deadly start here in Massachusetts, with 18 deaths already reported statewide.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health says that the state is one of 29 reporting higher-than-normal rates of flu-like illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned of a harsh flu season, which usually peaks in mid-winter.
On Wednesday, the City of Boston declared a public health emergency. There have been about 700 confirmed cases of the flu in Boston so far this season, compared with 70 all of last season.
Locally, Dr. Sarah Haessler, an infectious disease specialist at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, told 22News that they have been seeing lots of patients admitted to their emergency department with influenza.
Haessler says that everyone is susceptible to the flu, but to prevent yourself from getting sick, you should be sure to get vaccinated and wash your hands frequently.
Dr. Haessler's sentiment is echoed by the American Red Cross, who sent out a news release on Thursday, urging people who have not yet gotten a flu vaccine to get vaccinated now.
There are many myths surrounding the flu in general; and the vaccine in particular. Haessler reminds you that you cannot contract the virus from getting the vaccine. She says that is because it takes a while from the time you get vaccinated until you develop immunity. Some people, therefore, still develop flu-like symptoms after getting the vaccine.
The flu is commonly associated with a high fever, body aches, and a deep cough. It can sometimes be confused with the common cold (which is also widespread at this time of year,) but there are differences. Click here for an interactive feature outlining the differences between colds and the flu.