Mayor Thomas M. Menino this morning declared a public health emergency in Boston as the latest reports show an increasingly severe flu season. Since October 1, the unofficial start of the flu season, there have been approximately 700 confirmed cases of flu among Boston residents, a ten-fold increase when compared to the 70 cases confirmed all of last flu season. The flu season in Boston typically stretches through the end of March. Mayor Menino and the Boston Public Health Commission are working with community health centers around the city to offer free vaccination clinics this weekend.
“This is the worst flu season we’ve seen since 2009, and people should take the threat of flu seriously,” Mayor Menino said. “This is not only a health concern, but also an economic concern for families, and I’m urging residents to get vaccinated if they haven’t already. It’s the best thing you can do to protect yourself and your family. If you’re sick, please stay home from work or school.”
Flu cases are now accounting for over 4 percent of all emergency department visits at Boston hospitals, compared to about 1 percent during non-influenza season. Of influenza cases reported to date in Boston residents, 25 percent have been ill enough to require hospitalization. Since October 1, four Boston residents, all seniors, have died from flu-related illnesses. Certain people, including the elderly, young children, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease or other conditions), are at greater risk for serious illness if they get influenza. Some individuals may not be at risk for severe illness themselves, but can transmit the infection to their families, friends, and patients.
The Boston Public Health Commission is urging people to contact their primary care doctor to get a flu vaccination, which can be administered as a shot or as a nasal spray. Everyone 6 months and older should be vaccinated against influenza. Boston residents that need help finding where to get vaccinated can contact the Mayor’s Health Line at 617-534-5050 from 9am-5pm, Monday through Friday, or the Mayor’s 24-hour Hotline at 617-635-4500 after hours.
Tips to avoid getting sick or spreading germs:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after coughing or sneezing. If water is not nearby, use an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
- Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs can spread this way.
- As much as possible, avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- If you have a fever or feel ill, stay home.