BOSTON (CBS) – 18 people in Massachusetts have died from the flu this season, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced Wednesday.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Carl Stevens reports

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Boston Mayor Tom Menino also declared a public health emergency because there are at least 700 flu victims in the city, compared to 70 all of last season.

The city’s public health director told WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Carl Stevens it’s an epidemic and likely “thousands and thousands” of people in Boston have the flu.

A spokeswoman for Massachusetts General Hospital says they have been seeing “an additional 40-80 patients daily with flu-like illness.”

“This has strained capacity to its limits. Likewise, many inpatient beds have been closed to isolate influenza patients, and hospital and practice staffing has been stressed by illness within their own ranks,” MGH’s Kristen Stanton said in a statement.

Kevin Cranston, the DPH’s director of the bureau of infectious diseases, characterized this season as “moderately severe.”

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He said the vaccine is a good match for this strain of flu.

He urged everyone who hasn’t gotten a flu shot to get one as soon as possible.

The mayor’s emergency declaration means there will be an expanded availability of the vaccine at city health clinics.

To find a clinic hear you, visit bphc.org or mylocalclinic.com.

Boston residents can call the Mayor’s Health Line at 617-534-5050 weekdays from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. or the Mayor’s 24-hour Hotline at 617-635-4500 after hours.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Carl Stevens contributed to this report.

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You can follow him on Twitter @carlwbz.