City, News

Flu forces Boston to declare health emergency

The City of Boston declared a public health emergency today in response to an increasingly threatening flu season, which has resulted in 18 deaths across Massachusetts.

Boston has reported four flu-related deaths, and 700 cases of the flu have been confirmed since the flu season began Oct. 1, according to the Associated Press.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, in a press conference this morning, urged residents to take all necessary precautions to protect themselves from the flu.

“This is the worst flu season we have seen since 2009, and people should take the threat of flu seriously,” Menino said. “I’m urging residents to get vaccinated if they haven’t already. It is the best thing you can do to protect yourself and your family. If you’re sick, please stay home from work or school.”

Menino is partnering with the Boston Public Health Commission and local community health centers to offer free vaccination clinics to the people of Boston.

Katinka Podmaniczky, assistant director of communications of the BPHC, said there are a limited number of free flu vaccination clinics available for Boston residents.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports a 3.4 percent increase in the number of people suffering from flu-like symptoms visiting hospitals and clinics, since the 2011-2012 flu season.

Dr. Joe Bresee, chief of the epidemiology and prevention branch of the CDC’s influenza division, said the rate of flu-related hospitalizations was high for this time of year, and the agency will issue another national advisory on Friday.

Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick spoke this morning on Boston’s health emergency announcement.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for me to remind people about the importance of getting the flu shot,” he said. “I hate needles and I got one. Wash your hands, cough into your elbow — some of the basic practices that help reduce risk.”

Patrick explained the means by which residents of Massachusetts might gain access to flu shots.

“For people who do not have easy access to a doctor, you can get them at some of those ‘minute clinics,’ he said. “You can go to a community health center if you can’t afford it to get a shot,”

Bonnie McGilpin, Patrick’s deputy press secretary, said it is unlikely the Commonwealth will be forced to issue a health emergency.

“The state will only issue a health emergency if there was a shortage of vaccines, and we still have plenty of vaccines,” she said.

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