Updated: Thursday, 10 Jan 2013, 6:43 AM EST
Published : Wednesday, 09 Jan 2013, 4:21 PM EST
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Concerns continue to grow over the nationwide flu outbreak.
In the Ocean State, area hospitals say they too are seeing an uptick in flu cases this year.
Eyewitness News has learned that the Lifespan group of hospitals have seen 295 flu cases between December 2012 and January 8, 2013. Last year, at the same time, the hospitals had just 27 adult patients enter their emergency department with the flu.
Since October, Kent Hospital has seen over 300 positive flu cases. Last year, the hospital saw only 20 cases.
According to the RI Department of Health, there have been a total of 380 flu hospitalizations in the Ocean State since October 1, 2012. They say flu cases are up 1,000 percent from last year.
It's a big difference from last flu season, when HEALTH officials say the state only saw 90 flu hospitalizations.
In Massachusetts, public health officials are reporting 18 flu-related deaths in the state already this season, and Boston has declared a public health emergency.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned of a harsh flu season, which usually peaks in midwinter.
Typically, flu cases around the United States do not spike until mid to late February. But, for certain groups, mainly children, the elderly and people with underlying health conditions, getting the flu can be life threatening.
In any given year, influenza deaths range from 3,000 to 50,000. Because of this year's earlier start, experts worry it could trend toward the higher side in 2013.
State health officials are reminding everyone that it's not too late to get a flu shot. The Rhode Island Department of Health have made them free across the state.
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