Following yesterday’s declaration of a public health emergency in the City of Boston, Mayor Thomas M. Menino today announced updates to the City’s response plan for an increasingly severe flu season. Several community health centers across the City have committed to providing free public clinics this weekend; a calendar of participating centers is below. Public health officials will reach nearly 45,000 Boston residents, including 27,000 seniors, through the City’s automated call system today, urging residents who have not yet been vaccinated to contact their doctors or visit a free clinic this weekend. (The script of that call is attached.)
“I got my flu shot, and I’m asking every Boston resident over the age of six months to do the same,” Mayor Menino said. “We’re working hard to make it as convenient as possible for residents throughout the city to get vaccinated, at no cost, and I hope to see thousands of Bostonians turn out this weekend at our health centers. It’s the single best thing you can do to protect yourself and your family during this 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. 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 (BPHC) 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.
Health Centers Offering Free Clinics This Weekend
There are a limited number of free flu vaccine clinics available for Boston residents. See BPHC calendar, click here.