Sign In
Boston Public Health Commission Home

BLOG

Oct 23
Mayor Walsh, Boston Health Officials Issue Health Advisory

​Mayor Martin J. Walsh and the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) today issued a health advisory involving two cases of young children diagnosed with meningococcal disease. All individuals who are known to have been in close contact with these two cases have been identified and received antibiotics as a precautionary measure to reduce the risk of further infection. 

Meningococcal disease is an infectious disease that is caused by a bacterial infection. Both cases have been associated with day care centers specializing in serving children who have experienced homelessness, however it is not currently known if the two cases are connected. The last date that either case was at one of the day care centers was October 18th and no secondary cases have been identified at this time. 

The disease is spread from person to person through saliva, requiring close contact with infected individuals. Time from exposure to developing symptoms is between one to 10 days, and usually less than four days. Symptoms develop rapidly and include nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light, and altered mental status or confusion. 

Meningococcal disease has become less common in recent years, with between 10 to 15 reported cases statewide each year. There are several different forms of meningococcal disease, including infection of the blood and infection of the brain and spinal cord, known as meningitis. Early detection and initiation of antibiotics for suspected meningococcal disease is critically important.

There are safe and effective vaccines available to prevent infection from the most common forms of meningococcal disease and residents are encouraged to speak with their health care provider about vaccination options.

Any resident with questions about meningococcal disease should call BPHC at (617) 534-5611. Fact sheets are also available at bphc.org in English, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, Spanish, Vietnamese.

Oct 15
National Latinx AIDS Awareness Day: "Living with HIV or not....we're fighting this together."

Each year, National Latinx AIDS Awareness Day promotes HIV testing, prevention, and treatment in Latinx communities. HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks the immune system – the part of the body that fights disease. HIV infection can eventually lead to AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). In Boston, there were 5,920 residents living with HIV in 2017, among them a disproportionate number were Latinx/Hispanic. One in seven people living with HIV do not know that they have it.

BPHC is proud to join The Latino Commission on AIDS (LCOA) , the Hispanic Federation  and other organizations in using  this day to build capacity for non-profit organizations and health departments to reach Latino/Hispanic communities, promote HIV testing, and provide HIV prevention information and access to care. This year's theme is "Living with HIV or not…. we're fighting this together."

HIV Prevention

  • Never share syringes or works to inject drugs (for example, cookers).
  • Use condoms correctly every time you have vaginal or anal sex.
  • Limit your number of sex partners.
  • Use Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP); a medication that is highly effective for preventing HIV infection when taken daily.

If you have been exposed to HIV, talk to your provider about Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP). PEP can be used in emergencies to reduce the risk of adcquiring HIV but must be started within 72 hours of exposure. 

HIV Testing 

The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control recommends that everyone between 13 and 64 years old get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. High risk groups like men who have sex with men (MSM) should get tested at least once per year. It is also recommended that you be tested for HIV every time to have a new sex partner. 

HIV Treatment 

There is no cure for HIV. However, there have been tremendous advancements in treatment. Today, antiretroviral therapy (ART) can keep HIV-positive people healthy for many years. This treatment decreases the amount of the virus in the body. If you are HIV positive, talk to your healthcare provider about ART.  

BPHC provides information about HIV in multiple languages including Spanish, English, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Portuguese and Vietnamese. For more information, visit www.bphc.org/HIV.

Oct 09
Boston Health Officials Alert Residents About Possible Exposure To Measles

​The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) confirmed today that a case of measles was diagnosed in a Boston resident on October 6, 2019. During the infectious period, the individual went to locations where other people may have been exposed. This is the first confirmed case of measles in a Boston resident since 2013.

BPHC urges anyone who does not know their measles immunization status to get vaccinated with at least one dose of the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine. Those who have had measles in the past or have received two doses of measles containing vaccine are unlikely to become ill even if exposed.

Exposures to this individual may have occurred at the following locations and times in Boston:

Friday, October 4th 1:30pm to 4:30pm
Render Coffee, 563 Columbus Avenue, South End

Friday, October 4th 2:30pm to 4:45pm
Cafe Madeleine, 517 Columbus Avenue, South End

Friday, October 4th 6:30pm to 9:30pm
Gyroscope, 305 Huntington Avenue, Fenway

Saturday, October 5th 11:30am to 1:35pm
CouCou, 24 Union Park Street, South End

Saturday, October 5th 12:00pm to 2:15pm
Sir Speedy, 827 Boylston Street, Back Bay

People who were at these locations could become ill until October 25 – October 26, 2019 (up to 21 days following potential exposure). Anyone who was exposed and is unclear of their immunization status or begins to develop symptoms of measles should call their healthcare provider.

Measles is very contagious virus that is spread through the air, usually through coughing and sneezing. The virus may remain in the environment for up to two hours after the infectious person has left the area. Exposure can occur even without direct contact with an infectious person. Early symptoms include a high fever, runny nose, cough and red eyes. A skin rash usually occurs three to five days later and begins and flat, red spots on the face.

"This is a dangerous disease, but it is preventable. Getting vaccinated is the best way for everyone to protect themselves from measles," said BPHC Medical Director, Dr. Jennifer Lo.

BPHC is working with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) to contact individuals at high risk for exposure. For additional information, please contact BPHC at 617-534-5611 or MDPH at 617-983-6800.

Fact sheets on measles are available online in English, Arabic, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, Spanish and Vietnamese.

Oct 02
BPHC's ​Green & Clean Program: Protecting you and the environment from harmful chemicals

You are being exposed to chemicals every time you go into an auto shop, hair salon, and nail salon. Auto shop workers, hair stylists, and nail technicians are exposed to harmful chemicals with every service they provide. People who spend time in these businesses, especially employees, are exposed when they breathe, if chemicals touch their skin, or if they eat without washing their hands. This exposure can cause health problems, some of which can be life-threatening. The environment and neighborhoods where these businesses are located are also exposed to the chemicals the businesses use. The Green & Clean program protects workers and the public from chemicals and protects the environment. 

How does visiting a Green & Clean business protect me from chemicals? 



Green & Clean businesses use fewer harmful chemicals! Green & Clean businesses have an inspection every year to make sure they are using best practices, such as fewer chemicals. 

How does visiting a Green & Clean business protect the environment? 

Green & Clean businesses also focus on the environment. They recycle and reuse materials, store their chemicals safely, and dispose of waste properly.


How do I know which businesses are Green & Clean? 

Look for the Green & Clean logo. Green & Clean businesses receive a certificate and window decal. You can also see a list of our Green & Clean businesses on our website at www.bphc.org/greenandclean.

Why is Green & Clean’s work important?

Nail technicians and hair stylists are more likely to: 

  • Have trouble breathing 

  • Develop asthma

  • Have miscarriages 

  • Give birth to babies with low birth weight 

  • Develop certain cancers

Auto shop workers are more likely to:

  • Eye, skin, and throat irritation 

  • Develop lung cancer or damage to lungs

  • Develop heart disease

If you are a customer at these salons and shops, you are also exposed to these harsh chemicals. Green & Clean’s work helps protect everyone! 

What can you do? 

Visit a participating business, and tell your friends, family, and neighbors to do the same! To find a Green & Clean business near you, visit www.bphc.org/greenandclean, or call the BPHC Environmental & Occupational Health Division at 617-534-5965. 

If you own a nail salon, hair salon, or auto shop, become a Green & Clean business! Participation is free. To learn how to join, visit www.bphc.org/greenandclean or call 617-534-5965.

Help protect yourself, workers, and the environment from exposure to harmful chemicals. Go Green & Clean today!



Sep 27
World Rabies Day - September 28

​Saturday, September 28th is World Rabies Day. Rabies is a deadly but preventable virus that causes more than 59,000 deaths each year worldwide. This year’s focus is on vaccination, the foundation of all rabies control efforts. Vaccines are available for most household pets. Further, Massachusetts state law requires all dogs to be licensed, which includes providing proof of a current rabies vaccination.


How is Rabies Spread?

Rabies is usually spread through the bite of an animal that has the virus already in them. Rabies spreads quickly, attacking the brain and nervous system. If left untreated, rabies can be deadly. 

In the United States, rabies can be found in racoons, skunks, bats, foxes, coyotes, and woodchucks. The virus is spread through the animal’s saliva when they bite or scratch another animal or person. The virus can also get into the body through the eyes, nose or mouth. Domestic animals like dogs, cats, ferrets and farm animals can get rabies as well. Vaccinating your pets can prevent them from getting rabies.

Symptoms and Treatment:

It can take 2 to 8 weeks for someone to develop symptoms like irritability, paralysis, weakness, seizures, and hallucinations. Rabies is almost always fatal once symptoms appear.

If you have been bitten, scratched or possibly exposed to an animal’s saliva, contact your health care provider or the BPHC Infectious Disease Bureau (617) 534-5611. Prompt treatment will prevent people who come in contact with a rabid animal from getting rabies. Treatment involves 4 or 5 does of rabies vaccine and one dose of Human Rabies Immune Globulin (HRIG). It is also important to call Boston Animal Care and Control at (617) 635-5348 so that the animal can be captured, quarantined and tested for rabies.  

If your pet has been bitten, scratched, or exposed to an animal’s saliva, try to find out what type of animal attacked. Do not touch the attacking animal. Use gloves and a hose to wash your pet’s wound. Do not touch your pet with bare hands. Call your veterinarian and then call the BPHC Infectious Disease Bureau at (617) 534-5611 to find out how to protect yourself.

You can read more about Rabies on our website. Fact sheets are available in English, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, Spanish, and Vietnamese.



Sep 25
Ban on the Sale of Vape Products in Massachusetts Issued by Govenor Baker

​The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) inspectors are actively working to share information about the requirements of the public health emergency declared by Govenor Charlie Baker yesterday with Boston retailers. 

The Governor called for a temporary four-month statewide ban on the sale of flavored and non-flavored vaping products in both retail stores and online. The sales ban applies to all nicotine and marijuana vaping products and devices. The ban takes effect immediately and lasts through January 25, 2020.

Vaping consists of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol (often called vapor) produced by an e-cigarette or similar battery-powered device. E-cigarettes come in many different sizes, types and colors. Some resemble pens, small electronic devices such as USB sticks and other everyday items. The products are often compact and allow for discreet carrying and use – at home, in school hallways and bathrooms and even in classrooms.

MDPH has requested the assistance of BPHC and other local health officials in enforcing Governor Baker's declaration of a public health emergency and MDPH Commissioner's order related to severe lung disease associated with the use of e-cigarettes and vaping products. The order documents and additional background about the Commonwealth's order can be obtained from www.mass.gov/vapingemergency

If vaping products are found being offered for sale during the duration of the order, BPHC will issue a Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) cease and desist letter as instructed by MDPH. 

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) has advised those with general questions related to the enforcement of the emergency order to contact the DPH Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program at 617-624-5900. 

Under Mayor Walsh's leadership, the Boston Public Health Commission and Board of Health are actively moving forward with engaging the community through a comment period regarding a regulatory proposal to reduce youth nicotine initiation over the long term. BPHC remains committed to permanently closing the menthol loophole for both tobacco and nicotine products as well as ensuring retailer accountability as important next steps to ensure that Boston's young people are protected from lifelong nicotine addiction. You can read more about the proposed changes to regulations online at www.bphc.org/regulations

There are a number of programs in Boston that offer convenient, low-cost tobacco treatment programs to help you break free from addiiton to nicotine. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) today to set up an appointment with a treatment specialist.

Sep 18
Changes to Tobacco and Nicotine Product Sales Regulations Proposed

Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) is proposing regulations aimed at addressing vaping and tobacco use among youth in Boston. Under the proposal, mint and menthol nicotine and tobacco products will only be sold only in verified adult-only tobacco retailers. Staff will now move forward with an engagement process that will include a public comment period and public hearing before a Board of Health vote to approve the amendments. 

"Teen vaping is an epidemic that is particularly alarming because we know that nicotine use at a young age can have the power to lead to a lifelong dependency. The data is undeniable in showing that these amendments would save lives," said Mayor Walsh. "I believe that now is the time to act, and I thank our public health staff for bringing forward a proposal that will ensure Boston has some of the strongest regulations in the country to protect our young people."

Boston continues to be a leader at taking steps at the local level to restrict youth access to tobacco and other nicotine products such as e-cigarettes, vapes and "e-juice," making it among the first jurisdictions in the United States to regulate e-cigarettes and other nicotine products on equal footing with tobacco. In 2015, the Board of Health increased the sales age for nicotine and tobacco products to 21 and restricted the sale of the majority of flavored tobacco and nicotine products to adult-only tobacco retail locations. 

"On behalf of the Board of Health, I am excited that we are moving to address both the long-standing issue of menthol tobacco use as well as the rapidly-emerging issue of youth nicotine use and vaping," said Manny Lopes, chairman of the Board of Health and chief executive officer of East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC). "I applaud Mayor Walsh's leadership on this pressing public health issue and look forward to engaging with the community during the public comment period."

Because most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, its use increases the possibility of addiction, particularly to other tobacco products that can cause well-documented health consequences. Vaping products can also cause long-term harm to brain development and respiratory health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Among high school students who use e-cigarettes, use of any flavored e-cigarettes in 2018 was over 67 percent, and the current use of menthol- or mint-flavored e-cigarettes was over 51 percent. 

The proposed regulatory amendments also seek to address long-standing disparities in tobacco use patterns and associated mortality from diseases such as heart disease, cancer and stroke. BPHC researchers found that among adults in Boston, black adults suffer the greatest burden of tobacco-related mortality of any ethnic or racial group. Tobacco use is a major contributor to the three leading causes of death among African Americans - heart disease, cancer and stroke.

In addition to removing the exemption, the proposal strengthens retailer ID checking requirements and restricts the sale of products that attract young people. BPHC is also supporting Boston Public Schools in efforts to launch a district-wide public awareness prevention campaign focused on youth smoking and vaping, professional development training for teachers and staff, a comprehensive health education curriculum, and referrals to smoking cessation programs.

The Mayor's Office of Health and Human Services and BPHC joined with the Codman Square Neighborhood Council and B.O.L.D. Teens to host a community forum on menthol tobacco and vaping in July 2019. More than 150 people, mostly youth, joined together for a conversation about the ways tobacco and nicotine use negatively impacted their health and their communities. 

"Regulatory changes made over the last decade, combined with efforts to build strong partnerships with schools, health centers and other community organizations, have played important roles in reducing smoking among Boston residents," said Boston Public Health Commission Executive Director Monica Valdes Lupi. "The marketing and retail practices of tobacco companies that have been used for decades to infiltrate our communities of color with menthol tobacco products are unacceptable, and the fact that similar tactics are being used now to target our kids with vaping products demands action."

Further restricting the sale of menthol tobacco products would likely reduce tobacco use overall and particularly in communities of color, potentially reducing disparities in disease and premature death between Boston neighborhoods, and advancing Mayor Walsh's Imagine Boston 2030 goal of reducing disparities in premature mortality between Boston neighborhoods.

With the Board's recommendation to proceed, staff will now start a public engagement process that will include a public hearing on November 7 and a public comment period through November 8, 2019. Written comments can be submitted by email to boardofhealth@bphc.org.       

ABOUT THE BOSTON PUBLIC HEALTH COMMISSION

The Boston Public Health Commission, one of the country's oldest health department, is an independent public agency providing a wide range of health services and programs. It is governed by a seven-member board of health appointed by the Mayor of Boston.

Public service and access to quality health care are the cornerstones of our mission - to protect, preserve, and promote the health and well-being of all Boston residents, particularly those who are most vulnerable. The Commission's more than 40 programs are grouped into six bureaus: Child, Adolescent & Family Health; Community Health Initiatives; Homeless Services; Infectious Disease; Recovery Services; and Emergency Medical Services.

Sep 18
National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day

Did you know that in 2016, nearly half of people in the U.S. living with diagnosed HIV are aged 50 and older? People aged 50 and older made up 17% (6,812) of the 39,782 new HIV diagnoses that year.

Today, September 18, 2019 is the annual National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day (NHAAAD). 

Older adults are often not tested for HIV because they do not think they are at risk. They may mistake HIV symptoms, such as weight loss, pneumo­nia, fatigue, confusion, and vision problems, for those of normal aging. Therefore, older adults are more likely to find out about their HIV infection late in the course of their disease. This late diagnosis of HIV can result in delays in treatment.

Having unprotected anal, oral or vaginal sex with someone who has HIV put you at the greatest risk for contracting HIV yourself. Protect yourself by:

  • Talking to your partner about their sexual history and HIV. Before having sex with a new partner, discuss their HIV status.
  • Protecting yourself. Use a latex condom and lubricant when you have sex. Polyurethane condoms also protect against HIV and can be used by people with a latex sensitivity
  • It is also important to avoid contact with another per­son's blood and be sure to never share or reuse needles or 'works."
  • The risk of HIV can be higher for older women due to age-related vaginal thinning and dryness that can lead to tears in the vaginal area.

Remember, HIV risk does not diminish with age!

Many older adults find it awkward to discuss sex and sexually transmitted infections like HIV with their healthcare provider. Don't be! Get tested! Protect yourself and your partner!

Talk to your healthcare provider to find out if you should be tested for HIV! There are also several free and confidential testing centers in Boston. To find a testing center near you, call the Mayor's Health Line at 617-534-5050 or visit https://gettested.cdc.gov/search_results

Sep 16
BPHC Recognizes Global Female Condom Day

September 16 is Global Female Condom Day! 

Female Condom PictureAccording to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 1 million people become infected with a sexually transmitted infection (STI) every day. Condoms provide protection from both unintended pregnancy and sexual transmitted infections (STIs). And, there are condom options for both male and female anatomy.

As part of this important international awareness day, the Boston Public Health Commission is drawing attention to female condom option available and important information about its effective use. 

Why use Female Condoms?

  • They provide women more control over their sexual health. 

  • They are a safe option for women who do not or cannot use the pill or other birth control techniques. 

  • Pre-lubricated female condoms help post-menopausal women who have vaginal dryness have more comfortable sex

  • A female condom can be used for protection during either vaginal or anal sex.

 

Female Condom Dos and Don’ts

  • DO store female condoms in cool, dry places.

  • DO read and follow the instructions on the package insert.

  • DO use lube to help prevent the condom from slipping and tearing.

  • DO check the condom itself to make sure there are no obvious tears or holes.

  • DO use a new condom from start to finish every time you have vaginal or anal sex.

  • DON'T reuse a female condom.

  • DON'T flush female condoms as they may clog the toilet.

  • DON'T use a female condom if it is passed the expiration date on the package.

  • DON'T use a male and female condom at the same time as this can cause tearing. 

Sep 13
Massachusetts Public Health Officials Raise West Nile Virus Risk level to Moderate in Boston

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) announced yesterday it was raising the risk level for West Nile Virus (WNV) from low to moderate in Boston and in nearby towns. No human cases of WNV infection have been reported to Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) in Boston residents in 2019. In 2018, 7 human cases were reported in Boston. Residents are urged to take precautions against mosquito bites.

WNV is a mosquito borne infection, transmitted by insects that bite both in daylight hours with peak periods between dusk and dawn. It poses greater health risks to people over 60 and those with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and people who have received organ transplants.

The Boston Public Health Commission is also closely monitoring the risk for EEE in the City. However, at this time, no human or animal cases of EEE have been detected in Boston. Mosquitoes rarely test positive for EEE virus in Boston. Regardless, BPHC encourages everyone to take precautions to protect themselves from mosquito bites because that is the best way to prevent both WNV and EEE.


Tips to Prevent Mosquito Bites:

    • Use Mosquito repellent
      • Use repellents containing DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus, picaridin or IR3535. 
      • Always read the directions on the label.
      • Apply DEET to exposed skin (avoid eyes and mouth) and on clothes, but not on open cuts or wounds. 
      • After going inside, wash off repellent with soap and water. If the product has been applied directly to clothing, wash it before wearing again.
      • Do not use DEET concentrations of more than 30%.
      • Do not let children apply repellents themselves. Avoid children's eyes, mouth, or hands and use cautiously around ears.
      • Do not use DEET on infants under two months of age (mosquito netting can be used over infant carriers) or oil of lemon eucalyptus on children under 3 years of age.
      • Use only repellents approved for use on animals on pets.
    • Cover up
      • Wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks whenever possible. Tuck your shirt into your pants to keep mosquitoes from going under your clothes.
    • Protect your home
      • Make sure window and door screens don't have holes in them. Screens in good condition will help prevent mosquitoes from getting inside your home.
    • Stop Mosquito breeding outside your home and around your yard
      • Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water, so it is important to make sure items around your home do not collect any water. It only takes one week for mosquito larvae living in water to grow into biting adults. Turn over unused flowerpots, buckets, wheelbarrows and garbage cans; remove leaves and other debris that can clog gutters and trap water; dispose of or cover old tires; and cover swimming pools when not in use.

Tracking & Controlling Mosquitoes:

    • The Boston Public Health Commission partners with the Suffolk County Mosquito Control Project (SCMCP) to protect Boston residents from mosquito-borne illnesses. SCMCP collects samples in traps every week during the summer and fall. Those samples are tested to see if WNV or Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) is present. Mosquito control measures are also implemented during the summer and fall months. Wetlands, storm drains and other areas around the city are treated to limit the number of mosquitoes that emerge.

      You can read more about the signs and symptoms of West Nile Virus right now on our website. Fact sheets are available in English, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, Spanish, and Vietnamese.


1 - 10Next

Boston Public Health Commission
1010 Massachusetts Ave, 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02118.
Phone:(617) 534-5395 Email: info@bphc.org