Category: Society / January 10, 2013 8:55 AM EST
With flu cases in Boston up tenfold from last year, the mayor of Boston declared a public health emergency on Wednesday (January 09) as authorities around the United States scrambled to cope with a rising number of patients.
U.S. health authorities said the flu arrived about a month earlier than usual this year and the flu strain making most people sick -- H3N2 -- has a reputation for causing fairly severe illness, especially among the elderly.
As a result, hospitals around the country have been forced to find additional space to treat the ill and some have had to turn people away.
Mayor Thomas Menino said the number of reported infections in Boston is already 10 times higher than last season's reported caseload and said the city would begin offering free flu vaccinations on Saturday (January 12) in an effort to stem the spread.
"Boston has already seen about 700 confirmed cases,"
Although it varies widely from year to year, the flu season typically starts in December, builds to a peak in January or February and fades away by late March or early April.
The CDC recommends everyone over six months of age get a flu shot, especially people in high-risk groups, such as those under 5 or over 65 and people with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma or heart disease.
Public health officials urged people to stay home from work or school if they become ill, but not necessarily to rush to the hospital, particularly if they are between the ages of 5 and 65 and otherwise healthy.