It’s Official: Flu Spikes Dramatically In Mass.


(Updated at 3:18)

I just checked the Massachusetts Department of Public Health weekly flu report, and the graph above made me say, “Yikes.” As in, all those anecdotes we’ve been hearing are not just anecdotes. This is really looking like an unusually early and heavy flu season in Massachusetts, and there are similar reports of early flu spikes from other states. (See our earlier post: Why Get A Flu Shot Now: Unusually Early Season, Already Here.)

As the DPH explains, the graph above measures reports of patients with “flu-like illness” — so they may have other viruses — from a network of “sentinel sites” believed to be representative of the population at large. The X axis represents weeks of the year, and the Y axis represents the percentage of patients seen at those practices who report flu-like symptoms. The DPH notes that the graph shows that flu-like illness “continued to increase and is much higher than what is typically seen at this time of year.”

But that dry public-health language does not capture the widespread misery of this nasty virus season. You may get a better sense of it in this excerpt of an email from a CommonHealth reader: “Just thought I’d report that there seems to be a huge spike in the flu – despite vaccinations – I can’t get over how many people seem to be coming down with severe symptoms.”

Some of those people had gotten the vaccine already — and apparently enough people have been wondering whether the vaccine really protects them that the DPH offers an explainer here: Can you still get the flu even if you have been vaccinated? 

Readers, what are you seeing?

Here’s WBUR’s latest on-air report:

Flu season has hit with a bang. The state department of public health reports a dramatic spike that began about two weeks ago. WBUR’s Martha Bebinger has more.

Health officials say doctors are seeing three times as many patients with the flu and flu-like symptoms as they did this time last year. Al DeMaria is the state epidemiologist:

“This year we have to be especially worried because of the widespread nature of the activity, the very early peak and the intensity of the flu activity that we’re getting indications of now.”

Although some doctors disagree, DeMaria says this year’s vaccine is a good match for most of the reported flu cases. While the vaccine is not 100% effective, DeMaria urges anyone who hasn’t had the shot to get it.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Tom

    That MA report showed that ~95% of the flu cases are Type A flu. The flu vaccine this year will vaccinate you against two types of Type A flu. So the vaccine is a good match. It is surprising that herd immunity is not blunting the current flu epidemic. Either not enough people got vaccinated to give the society herd immunity -85% needed- (my guess) or it is some variant of Type A flu that evades the vaccine.

  • WaitingForSpring

    I got the flu shot in October. I haven’t had a cold in 2 years. 7 days ago I took a walk, came home shuddered and went to bed. Felt miserable for 3 days, went to work for the next 2 then yesterday got much worse. I have stuff lodged in my chest, and it won’t go away. Have tried medicine, whisky, lemon juice, tea, tea, tea, I’m almost drowning. I ache, I sneeze, I cough. I wheeze. I hate being sick. It’s disruptive, boring, nonproductive. achy, bluesy and makes one spend too much time online. Remedies please!

  • idler

    1) It’d be interesting to know what portion of the flu afflicted had been vaccinated. Considering that the data is collected from actual people, one might think it easy enough to just ask and record.

    2) Why do so many people refuse to get vaccinated ?

  • Janejb

    I was stricken with flu type symptoms (mild fever, body felt like hit by truck, cough,aches, etc) on December 26. Within a couple days I was up and about, but still hacking and tired. It felt a lot like the flu and I had a flu shot in early November .

  • Anne D.

    My two-year old nephew got the flu last week (he did get the flu shot). His father did not get the flu shot, but did get the flu a few days later.

  • Reasonable?

    Time out.
    I didn’t get the flu vaccination (even though it was offered for free at my workplace).
    I had a cold that lasted 4 days about a month ago.
    There is a cold that has spread at my workplace.
    I think that people are not thinking the same thing when they say “flu”.
    What I call a cold might be what someone else might call the “flu”.

    What are the symptoms of this year’s flu?
    Is it a runny nose, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches?

    How do we know that we are talking about the same thing?