As Boston Mayor Thomas Menino declared a health emergency on Wednesday morning due to Boston's flu outbreak, the city of Newton is also battling a high number of flu cases this season.
The city of Newton has had 131 confirmed cases of the flu so far this season, according to Newton Health & Human Services Commissioner Dori Zaleznik, a significant jump from last season.
"We're definitely seeing a lot of flu this year," Zaleznik told Newton Patch Wednesday afternoon.
At this time last year, the city had no confirmed cases of the flu, Zaleznik said, and just two cases were confirmed the entire season.
And for every confirmed case of the flu, there are many more unconfirmed in the city, Zaleznik added.
"We're seeing the same pattern as many communities...We've not had a bad flu year in the last decade, but this year we are," Zaleznik said.
In Boston, 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 more than 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. The Newton Health Department is still offering both the flu vaccine injection and nasal spray vaccine by appointment.
Although the Newton Health & Human Services Dept. did not see a large turnout at its free flu clinics this season, the department has seen an uptick in the last week for vaccine requests, Zaleznik said.
"People are responding to the publicity [about the flu] both locally and nationally," Zaleznik said.
Residents can call the Newton Health & Human Services Department at 617-796-1420 to make an appointment to come the Health Department office in Newton Centre (1294 Centre St.) for a vaccine. Insurance information is requested, but not required.
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.
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