BOSTON - Have you gotten a flu shot this year?
Doctors say there is a right answer to that question in the public health world, but this year, too many Massachusetts residents aren't giving it.
Early evidence suggests immune systems across the state will be taxed this flu season. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named Massachusetts the first state in the nation with widespread flu activity.
"What widespread means is that we're seeing some indication of influenza virus throughout the state," said Dr. Lawrence Madoff, Department of Public Health.
The number of cases is still small (as the green color on the map below shows), but the potential is there for a big ramp up, especially given the holidays are less than two weeks away.
"That's when a ton of people are going to be getting together with their family... they're going to be traveling around the country... and that's when people get sick," said Massachusetts General Hospital Doctor Ali Raja.
What is worrisome is that the Emergency Department at MGH is already seeing more flu patients this year than the same time last year.
Last year's flu season was long and deadly. For nearly five months, influenza cases in the U.S. were at or above normal, and it killed tens of thousands of Americans, including almost 200 children.
"What I would have hoped is because of that horrible news, we'd have more and more patients getting the flu shot this year," said Raja.
But Dr. Raja isn't seeing that.
"Anecdotally, when I talk to my patients in the ER there's still so many who haven't gotten their flu shots yet," said Raja.
His advice: It's not too late.
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