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TMCNet:  Deadly bug eyed in 2 new deaths

[January 14, 2013]

Deadly bug eyed in 2 new deaths

Jan 12, 2013 (Boston Herald - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- The powerful flu bug that has gripped the nation -- spreading widely in all but three states -- appears to have claimed two more lives in Boston this week, including a young child, city health officials said yesterday as they geared up for a large-scale vaccination campaign today.

"The push this weekend is to get as many people vaccinated as possible," said Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who on Wednesday declared a public health emergency due to a flu epidemic that, as of Jan. 5, had sickened at least 750 people in the Hub, more than 10 times the number from last year's flu season. "It's the single best thing you can do to protect yourself." Free flu shots will be administered at 22 community health centers across Boston starting this morning as part of a public health effort to reduce the spread of a potent flu strain that is known to make people sicker than usual.

Barbara Ferrer, director of the Boston Public Health Commission, said the number of "flu-related deaths" in the Hub now stands at six, with five of them being seniors. By comparison, the city recorded one such death during last year's flu season.

Officials declined to provide the gender or exact age of the child due to privacy issues, but said the youngster was under the age of 6.

Nick Martin, spokesman for the health commission, said the child died earlier this week.

"The child had the flu," he said, noting, however, that authorities are awaiting further test results to determine if the virus was the chief cause of the child's death.

The two recent deaths in Boston raise the total number of flu-related deaths statewide to 20.

The government doesn't keep a running tally of adult deaths from the flu, but estimates that it kills about 24,000 people in an average year. Nationally, 20 children have died from the flu so far this season.

While the flu is now widespread in 47 states, up from 41 the week before, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said yesterday that the number of hard-hit states -- where large numbers of people were treated for flu-like illness -- fell to 24, from 29. The only states without widespread flu were California, Mississippi and Hawaii.

"Only time will tell how moderate or severe this flu season will be," CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

___ (c)2013 Boston Herald Visit the Boston Herald at www.bostonherald.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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