Flu Season Likely To Be Worst in Decade

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Jan. 9 2013 1:36 PM

U.S. Flu Season Likely To Be Worst in a Decade

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Boston is giving free shots of the flu vaccine to residents who still haven't been immunized

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Emergency rooms across the country are struggling to keep up with a flood of flu patients as 41 states try to wage a battle against widespread influenza outbreaks, reports ABC News. The proportion of people seeing health care providers for flu-like symptoms jumped to 5.6 percent from 2.8 percent over the past month, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last year, the peak was 2.2 percent, notes Bloomberg.  So far, at least 18 children across the country have died in what will likely be the worst flu season in a decade, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, tells WTOP radio. "We are in for what looks like it's going to be one of the worst flu seasons in nine or 10 years," Fauci said, adding that the last time flu rates were this high was in the 2003-2004 season.

Should you be concerned? Well, let’s put it this way, the last time the seasonal flu circulated like this, there were 70,000 deaths in the United States, one expert tells USA Today.

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Boston Mayor Thomas Menino declared a public health emergency Wednesday as 18 people have been killed across Massachusetts by the flu. The numbers are astounding. Boston has 700 confirmed cases of the flu so far this season (and four deaths), marking a whopping 900 percent increase from the 70 confirmed cases last year, reports the Boston Globe. Health care centers in the city will be offering free vaccines. “It’s never too late to vaccinate,” one official said.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.