4 Flu-related Deaths Reported in Boston

(NECN: Josh Brogadir) - Boston Public Health officials announced four flu-related deaths in the city, adding to the 18 pediatric deaths nationwide, and many more adults have died from flu-like complications.

Hearing there are flu-related deaths in the city of Boston this season may signal an alarm, but there's more to it than meets the eye.

"A lot of people are throwing out the word 'panic', I don't think people should panic, but I think they should be really cautious," said Dr. Mallika Marshall, urgent care doctor and NECN medical expert.

It's early, it's powerful and medical experts say it might be the worst flu season in a decade, plus it hasn't likely ramped up to its peak yet.

But consider the numbers: There have been 700 cases reported in the city of Boston this season so far compared to only 70 all of last season, and four deaths since Oct. 1 compared with only one death all last season.

However, at least two of the reported deaths are adults over the age of 65, among the most vulnerable group to flu complications, and we tend to forget last year was one of the mildest years on record for the flu.

That said, state epidemiologist Dr. Al DeMaria says we have to consider much more than just reported cases of the flu.

"It's the winter and we see things in the winter. We see norovirus infections, the stomach bug, that is also called winter vomiting disease. So there's a lot that is going around, there probably are other respiratory viruses going around but they're being sort of pushed out by influenza so the winter time unfortunately is the season for these kinds of viral infections," Dr. DeMaria said.

And there were people going to get vaccinated. Our medical expert Dr. Marshall says that's a good thing.

"Your best protection against the flu is to get vaccinated, and I know a lot of people out there are thinking it's January it's too late, the flu season is almost over. It's not true, it's not too late to get vaccinated," Dr. Marshall added.

Dr. Marshall says symptoms of the flu are essentially like getting hit by a bus. If you have the chills, sniffles, sore throat, that might be a cold - but not the full blown flu.

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