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New England News

Region Still Hard Hit by Flu Outbreak

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Carol E. Davis

The influenza outbreak that came early this year to many in the region is reported as widespread across the country. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard took a closer look at how the virus is affecting the region, and how governments are trying to contain the spread...

Mike Leary, spokesman for Berkshire Health Systems, echoed a sentiment being felt by healthcare organizations across the region….

The number of inpatients checking into Berkshire Health System’s hospitals has required the adaptation of new policy regarding visiting hours. Again, spokesman Mike Leary…

Baystate Medical Center in Springfield is another hospital that has adopted a new visitor policy. Sarah Haessler, an infectious disease specialist at Baystate Health Systems, says that this year the large volume of patients complaining of flu-like symptoms is coming earlier than a typical flu season.

The hardest hit areas in Massachusetts remain to be near Boston. Boston mayor Thomas Menino declared a public health emergency and last week, Governor Deval Patrick signed legislation that would require schools to inform parents on the benefits to vaccinating their children against influenza. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has distributed 760,000 free vaccines to clinical providers as well as public sites including shelters and community centers.

Sarah Haessler said that the vaccine can serve as one of the best weapons against the spread of the virus.

There are reports however that due to the enormous demand for the flu shot; some areas are experiencing shortages including New York’s Hudson Valley. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has also declared a public health emergency. And hospitals across New York are adapting new visiting hours.

In Vermont, state epidemiologist Dr. Patsy Kelso said that this year’s outbreak is of a more manageable strain than in years previous. She called it a “moderate season”.

Nevertheless the flu outbreak is being considered “widespread” across 47 states by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least 20 children have died from the flu so far this season.  

In addition to obtaining a flu shot, the CDC recommends basic sanitation and treatment with anti-viral drugs to prevent the spread of the illness.

The flu symptoms commonly include high fever, aches, and chills.

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