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Spring Surge in Flu Activity Hits New England

APR 12, 2017 | EINAV KEET
A late season surge in flu activity in New England states has residents in the region as well as several members of the Boston Red Sox battling cases of the virus.

This past flu season was largely dominated by the influenza A (H3N2) virus; however, the recent uptick in flu outbreaks in some areas comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting a rise in the number of influenza B cases. According to the FluView report for the week ending April 1, influenza B viruses made up 56% of the cases that public health laboratories reported in the thirteenth week of the year, though influenza A viruses have accounted for nearly 76% of flu-positive respiratory specimens collected by public health and clinical laboratories around the United States since October, the beginning of the 2016-2017 flu season.

There is now a decline in widespread flu activity, with only 24 states reporting new cases; however, health official in some states are reporting a new wave of flu outbreaks. Massachusetts is one state experiencing a fresh surge in flu cases in April, in what state health officials are calling an unusual second peak in flu activity that has particularly hit the outer metropolitan Boston area. The late rise of influenza B viruses is just one factor contributing to the recent peak in flu activity. In addition, a Massachusetts Department of Public Health blog noted increased flu activity in the state for the last weeks in March, a reminder that despite being well into spring, flu season is not over for the country or the region. With that, health experts have emphasized that there are still benefits to receiving a flu shot, even this late in the flu season.

In addition, several members of the Boston Red Sox have also been affected by the uptick in flu activity, to the dismay of many baseball fans.  At least nine players on the Major League Baseball team have fallen ill with the virus, which is sidelining them in the opening weeks of the season, and forcing some players to miss games. In addition, the Red Sox’s play-by-play announcer caught the flu as well. To stop further spread of the virus, the team’s locker room area at Fenway Park was fumigated and disinfected while the team was away playing a series in Detroit, Michigan.

In Maine, residents have seen continued widespread flu activity bring a surge in spring illnesses, with state health officials reporting that half of Maine’s flu cases for the 2016-2017 season occurred in March. According to the weekly influenza surveillance report issued by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a Division of the Maine Department of Health and Human services, for the week ending April 8, there have been 4,693 laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu in the state so far this season, a number that has almost doubled since the previous 2015-2016 flu season which saw 2,360 confirmed flu cases.

While the virus continues to circulate, health experts are reminding residents to wash their hands, cover their mouths when they cough, stay home if they get sick, and to get vaccinated for the flu.
 
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