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Boston Officials Expect At Least 6 More Weeks In Flu Season

Boston health officials are not sure whether the flu season has peaked, but they expect it to go on for at least six more weeks.

The Boston Public Health Commission says it is optimistic last week's flu vaccine clinics will slow the spread of the virus. The city had declared a public health emergency on Jan. 9 in response to the outbreak.

Statewide, figures released on Friday show the percentage of people visiting health care providers with flu-like symptoms dropped to 2.4 percent, after reaching nearly 4.5 percent earlier in the month. A small decline in flu-related hospitalizations was also reported.

Said Kevin Cranston, who runs the state's Bureau of Infectious Disease: "I do want to caution us that every flu season has its own flow and it doesn't mean it couldn't go up again."

Boston Public Health Commission Director Barbara Ferrer said Friday a change in personal habits is helping slow the virus' spread, too.

"I think people are being much better about staying home when they're sick, and that will also dampen transmission," she said.

Ferrer said that Boston's minority and low-income neighborhoods are being hit hardest by the flu, as well as areas near colleges.

"We're starting to see an increase, as we had anticipated, in cases coming from neighborhoods like Allston and Brighton and I think that's as students have returned," she said.

There have been more than 1,100 confirmed flu cases in Boston this flu season.

Some physicians and pharmacists continue to run out of the flu vaccine, but Cranston says there is no national shortage and he urges patients to get a flu shot.

With additional reporting by The Associated Press

This program aired on January 18, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

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