Doctors: Flu season may extend into April

After the first death linked to the flu in a young patient in Massachusetts this year, new numbers are out.

WORCESTER, Mass. — After the first death linked to the flu in a young patient in Massachusetts this year, new numbers are out.

They show:

• The flu severity increased from moderate to high this week

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• Percentage of flu-like illness is higher than the last two years, this week

• More flu B than flu A positive specimens reported to hospitals and outpatient facilities

One pediatrician told Boston 25 News while flu season usually would peak in February, we’re in it now in January and there may well be two peaks this year.

The first pediatric flu death was a teenager in Worcester County, according to info released this week. That teen tested positive for influenza b.

At UMass Memorial Medical Center, doctors say more flu patients are visiting the emergency rooms as the prevalence of the virus rises.

Across the state, health officials say there have been 3,000 residents hospitalized and 20,000 emergency room visits.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people coughing or simply talking from within six feet can spread flu to others.

Doctors are especially worried about vulnerable groups right now.

“We’re very worried about it because the particular strains we’re seeing -- the influenza B and the H1N1 -- they can cause a lot more serious disease in younger folks,” UMass Memorial Emergency Medicine Dr. Joe Tennyson said. "If you remember in 2009, we had a lot of young people who were otherwise healthy who wound up on ventilators with severe lung disease with the flu.”

As hospitals brace for more flu patients, doctors say it’s not too late to get a flu shot, it may save your life.

Highlights from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s weekly flu report:

  • Influenza severity for Massachusetts has increased from moderate to high this week.
  • The percentage of influenza-like illness visits for Massachusetts has increased and is higher than the previous two years in the same week.
  • Overall influenza-like illness activity for Massachusetts remains high this week. The Inner Metro Boston region is reporting moderate ILI activity while all other regions are reporting high ILI activity.
  • The percent of influenza-associated hospitalizations in Massachusetts has increased in recent weeks, but remains lower than the previous two years in the same week.
  • In the 2019-2020 flu season, more influenza B than influenza A positive specimens have been reported by hospitals and outpatient facilities in Massachusetts.
  • The number of influenza-positive laboratory tests reported to MDPH increased this week by 31% compared to last week. The number of influenza A and influenza B positive laboratory tests reported to MDPH increased by 23% and 37%, respectively, compared to last week.
  • All influenza strains that have been characterized in Massachusetts this season to date are covered by the current influenza vaccine.
  • Nationally, influenza-like illness activity remains elevated and influenza B is most common, however, during recent weeks approximately equal numbers of influenza B and influenza A have been reported.
  • There have been two confirmed case of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV in Wuhan, China) in the U.S. and no cases identified in Massachusetts. For more information on the coronavirus, click here.
  • Additional statewide and national data including geographic spread, ILI activity, and pneumonia and influenza mortality are available at CDC’s FluView Weekly Report and FluView Interactive.