Boston flu outbreak prompts Mayor Menino to declare a public health emergency
Since Oct.1, the city of Boston, MA has seen some 700 confirmed influenza cases, which represents a ten-fold increase when compared to the 70 cases confirmed all of last flu season, prompting Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino to declare a public health emergency, according to a City of Boston press release Jan. 9.
“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 exemplified by the fact that four percent of all emergency room visits are now because of the flu. A quarter of all the flu cases seen thus far have required hospitalization.
In addition, at least four elderly people have succumbed to the disease in the city. Statewide, the Massachusettts Department of Health is reporting 18 flu-related deaths.
In the battle with the flu, Mayor Menino and the Boston Public Health Commission are working with community health centers around the city to offer free vaccination clinics this weekend. More than 90 percent of the flu viruses found in testing this year are well-matched to the vaccine.
The strains covered in the 2012-2013 influenza vaccine include A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus, A/Victoria/361/2011 (H3N2)-like virus and B/Wisconsin/1/2010-like virus.
Hospitals and health care facilities in the state are beginning to limit visitors in an effort to curb the outbreak.
The flu outbreak this season is not limited to Boston or Massachusetts in general, instead increased influenza activity is being seen nationawide.
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.
In addition, health authorities offer the following tips to avoid the flu and to stop the spread:
- 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.
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