Flu season: Boston's mayor declares public health emergency

Photo: Courtney Carmody via Creative Commons

The alert over the flu across the nation is growing more serious with each passing day.

Health officials in Boston have declared a public health emergency after the flu is blamed for 18 deaths in Massachusetts. Our region is not immune to the concern as doctors say they have seen a significant spike in flu cases.

Health officials in Boston say they have 700 confirmed cases of the flu, compared to 70 all of last season. From New England to parts of the Midwest and in our region, doctors are bracing for the problems to get worse before they get better.

In Boston Wednesday the mayor sounded the alarm.

“Today I am declaring a public health emergency in the city of Boston,” said Mayor Thomas Menino Wednesday.

At Mass General, there are now 24 hour waits to be admitted and when you do see a doctor or nurse, they’ll now be wearing protective masks.

“What’s really been a problem for us has been the increase in volume where we are seeing unprecedented levels of hospital crowding in emergency department visits,” says Dr. Paul Biddinger.

But it’s not just Boston. One Pennsylvania hospital is so inundated with the flu they’ve set up a special tent outside the emergency room to deal with flu patients.

In Minnesota they’ve already had almost 1,000 confirmed cases of the flu and they’re trying everything to stop the spread.

“Please, we implore you to stay home when you are sick,” says Cheri Lewer.

Doctors warn you may be infected and contagious for up to five days without a single symptom.

In our region, doctors are on high alert, seeing a spike in flu cases. After seeing 142 confirmed flu cases two years ago and just 20 last year, Washington Hospital Center has already diagnosed 159 cases of the virus. Doctors warn the problems are just beginning.

If you think you may be coming down with the flu, doctors recommend taking anti-viral medication, isolating yourself from others and to make sure to disinfect your house to help prevent the spread of the virus.