North End’s Waterfront Health Center Distributed More Flu Shots

After giving out thousands of flu shots already this season, the North End’s Waterfront Health Center distributed hundreds more Saturday as part of a citywide effort to get more people vaccinated.

This year’s flu has already claimed 18 lives in Massachusetts and last week Mayor Thomas Menino and the city’s Public Health Commission declared a public health emergency in Boston.

The North End and 20 other community health centers across the City committed to providing free public clinics on Saturday that gave out free flu shots to adults, children and seniors in the neighborhood.

Public health officials reached nearly 45,000 Boston residents, including 27,000 seniors, through the City’s automated call system last week that urged residents who have not yet been vaccinated to contact their doctors or visit the free clinic in the North End Saturday.

“I got my flu shot, and I’m asking every Boston resident over the age of six months to do the same,” said Menino. “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.

Everyone six 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 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday, or the Mayor’s 24-hour Hotline at 617-635-4500 after hours.

The Boston Public Health Commission also released 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.

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