Health Officials: This Flu Season Worst Since H1N1 Outbreak

(NECN: Justin Michaels, Boston) - There have been 18 deaths related to this year's flu in Massachusetts - four of them in the city of Boston alone. Health experts are calling this flu season the worst since the H1N1 outbreak in 2009 and 2010.

It seems the front line of the national health crisis that is this year flu season is centered in Boston.

"I am declaring a public health emergency in the city of Boston," said Mayor Tom Menino.

Boston Mayor Tom Menino is warning the threat is very serious. So far this season, there have been approximately 700 cases in Boston alone -a ten-fold increase from last year's flu season.

Looking at just the city of Boston - Dorchester, Mattapan and Roxbury are the hardest hit areas.

At the Dorchester House Multi-Service Center - an urgent care clinic - there has been a 25 to 50 percent increase in the number of people coming through the front door.

"Only a small fraction of people who are even in the higher risk groups are getting the flu shots," Dr. Patrick Egan of the Dorchester House said.

While at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital, veteran ER Nurse Janet Gill has seen it all. But she's never seen a flu season like this.

"We've seen a huge increase in patients coming in with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and upper respiratory infections with the fevers and the cough and the body aches," Nurse Janet Gill said.

Beverly Moss, 63, says her symptoms started suddenly. And, in a short time, she couldn't breathe.

"It was like something just hit me like a Mack truck and I just felt sick all over," Moss said.

Beverly is one of the lucky patients in Boston who got a room to recover from the flu.

In fact, it is so busy at Brigham and Women's, that patients are being treated in the hallways. Beds are being moved into what is normally the ER waiting area just to accommodate this nasty flu season need.

At the Dorchester House, health care experts have given about 6,000 flu shots - but that's only a third of their patients.

Many places were offering free flu shot for the weekend. Experts say that shot is the first line of defense to fend off the flu bug.    

The city has set up a health line at 617-534-5050.

And for a full list of more than a dozen clinics to go for free this weekend in the city of Boston, click here.      

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