Update on City of Boston Flu Emergency

Boston, Jan. 11, 2013, Mayor Thomas M. Menino today announced updates to the City’s response plan for an increasingly severe flu season. Twenty-two community health centers across the City have committed to providing free public clinics this weekend; a full list of participating centers can be found at www.bphc.org.

Digital display boards were placed at the following locations to drive resident participation: Bowdoin Street Community Health Center; Harvard Street Community Health Center; East Boston Neighborhood Health Center; Hyde Park Municipal Building; Greater Roslindale Community Health Center; Dimock Community Health Center. The Mayor’s Health Line (617-534-5050) will remain open this weekend, and will assist callers Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. After-hours, residents should contact the Mayor’s 24-hour hotline (617-635-4500).

For the week ending 1/5/13, there have been approximately 750 confirmed cases of flu among Boston residents, more than a ten-fold increase when compared to the 70 cases confirmed all of last flu season.

“The push this weekend is to get as many people vaccinated as possible,” Mayor Menino said. “It’s the single best thing you can do to protect yourself, and we’re proud to have 22 participating community centers opening their doors for free clinics this weekend.”

The flu season in Boston typically stretches through the end of March. 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.

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.