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Jan 11
Health Surveillance Data Suggest Increased Flu Activity in Boston
Boston is in the middle of its flu season, which usually runs from October through March. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) data, there is already widespread flu activity in the Commonwealth, most notably increased among young people here in the City of Boston.  

While the widespread designation used by the CDC and DPH signals that cases of the flu have been found in all parts of the State.  Influenza activity in Boston can be different than elsewhere, and the Boston Public Health Commission's (BPHC) Infectious Disease Bureau, monitors flu activity regularly to help the public and health professionals prevent the ongoing spread of flu.   

Information on flu activity reproted to and tracked by BPHC suggests an increase in confirmed flu cases and emergency department visits due to influenza-like illness in Boston this year. DPH data show similar trends occurring overall in the Commonwealth. 

"The flu season is well underway, but it is not too late to get vaccinated.  This year, the flu strain that is causing illness matches with the flu vaccine given in clinics and pharmacies. Those who get the vaccine are less likely to get sick or if they do, only get a mild flu-like illness. The prominent flu strains this year are also more likely to affect young people. An adult can protect the children around them by getting the vaccine for themselves in order to reduce the risk of getting sick then spreading it to others.  If you haven't already got the flu shot, go get it now. That is the best way to protect yourself and those around you from getting the flu," said Jennifer Lo, M.D., medical director at the Boston Public Health Commission.

Everyone in Boston is encouraged to take steps to protect themselves from the flu. This includes: 

  • hand washing regularly throughout the day,  

  • covering your mouth when you cough,  

  • staying home from work when you are sick,  

  • and getting vaccinated.

BPHC's  Infectious Disease Bureau released a public health advisory in November 2018 outlining specific recommendations for the prevention and control of influenza this season, including information on flu vaccine recommendations. Healthcare providers should continue to offer the influenza vaccine to all persons six months of age and older, particularly children.

There have been reported flu cases in all parts of Boston, which is expected for this time of year. Intensity of ILI in the Commonwealth is high.  Throughout the influenza season to date, which appears to be an H1N1-predominant season, an increased proportion of laboratory-confirmed influenza cases have been reported in children under 18 years of age compared to last season.  As reported in previous seasons, flu is disproportionally impacting Black and Latino communities in Boston.

All healthcare providers and laboratories in Boston are required by city health department regulations to report all laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza, regardless of state or city of residence, as well as any clusters of illness, to the Boston Public Health Commission.

The flu shot is the best defense against the flu! 

If you need information about where to get a flu shot or can't afford it, call the Mayor's Health Line at 617-534-5050.


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