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Two more flu deaths confirmed, including child

Two more people have died in Boston after contracting the flu -- including for the first time this season, a child -- bringing the total to six. Five of the deaths have been in adults over age 65, and one was a child under six years old, Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, said Friday evening.

“The child definitely had flu, but we’re not sure if there weren’t other complications that contributed to the death,” Ferrer said.

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She did not provide any more information about the deaths. During the 2011-2012 flu season, which was mild, there was just one death in the city.

In Massachusetts and across the country public health officials have been sounding warnings that the flu season arrived early and fierce, clogging emergency departments and causing a rush on vaccines.

Earlier this week, state officials were reporting 18 flu deaths in Massachusetts, none of which were children.

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There was some indication Friday that the season may have peaked, with the percent of doctor visits for flu-like illness dropping some, according to figures from the state health department.

As of Friday night in Boston, however, Ferrer said, “we don’t see any signs of a let-up, which is really why we’re pushing vaccinations so hard.”

Unless the infections slow, Ferrer said the city is on track for a “severe” flu season. “Right now,” she said, “it looks alarming.”

The city is distributing free flu vaccine at community health centers this weekend.

While the flu is unpleasant, for most people it can be treated at home. Young children, the elderly, women who are pregnant, and people with respiratory or other medical conditions may be at greater risk.

Chelsea Conaboy can be reached at cconaboy@boston.com. Follow her on Twitter @cconaboy.
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