Everything you need to know about the 2018-2019 flu season

Fighting the Flu: Local doctors warn flu still a threat for several months

BOSTON — The 2018-2019 flu season is shaping up to be a severe one.

Two children in Massachusetts have died from a flu-related illness, including a four-year-old girl from Framingham and a 12-year-old boy from Milford.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s latest weekly flu report, published on February 1, the rate of flu-like illness increased over the previous seven days.

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Public health experts said they consider the current flu season to be widespread and severe, but note preliminary indications show this year's vaccine to be highly effective. They urge anyone who hasn’t got vaccinated to do so now.

Dr. Larry Madoff, Director of the Division of Epidemiology and Immunization at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, warned reports of flu-like illness over the past week indicate Massachusetts in on track for a season like last year. During the 2017-2018 flu season, more people died (about 80,000) and were hospitalized due to the flu than any other flu season in decades.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports Massachusetts is one of the states experiencing high levels of flu activity. The agency expects the “highest flu activity will occur by the end of February.”

Fever people have been hospitalized with the flu this year, compared to last year. Madoff said the flu strain we’re seeing this year, H1N1, tends to affect younger people more than older people. Hospitalization rates tend to be higher in older people since they’re more likely to have severe complications from the flu.

According to the state health department, the central, northeast and southeast parts of the state are experiencing the highest levels of flu-like illness.

To date for the 2018-2019 flu season, there has been 7,533 confirmed cases of the flu in Massachusetts.

The flu can cause a cough, body aches and a fever. Flu-like illness is defined as a fever above 100°F in addition to either a cough or sore throat.