Mayor Thomas Menino declared a health emergency on Wednesday morning due to Boston's flu outbreak.
There have been more than 700 reported cases in the city so far this flu season, according to the Boston Public Health Commission. That's 10 times the average number of cases through the entire last year.
“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 now account for over 4 percent of all emergency department visits at Boston hospitals, compared to about 1 percent during non-influenza season, according to the Boston Public Health Commission. 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 others.
Fortunately, there's plenty of vaccine to go around this year, and the Boston Public Health Commission is urging everyone ages 6 months and older to get a flu shot. The city website has a calendar of free flu vaccine clinics. They also have a page devoted to flu information and prevention tips. You can also use the widget above to find flu shots at pharmacies, clinics and other locations near you.
The Red Cross offers several tips to reduce your exposure to the flu, like washing your hands often, coughing and sneezing into your elbow instead of your hand and others on this list.