NBC News is reporting this morning that Boston Mayor Thomas Menino has declared a public health emergency for the city, due to the rapidly growing number of cases of influenza. Mayor Menino said that the number of reported cases to date is 10 times higher than last year. The city will begin offering free flu vaccinations on Saturday in an attempt to slow down the spread of the disease. Menino said, "The latest reports show an increasingly tough flu season. We are half way through the flu season." Menino urged Boston residents to get vaccinated.
Last year's flu season was both late in arriving and mild, with a very low hospitalization rate. This season's rapid spreading of the virulent strain is causing alarm around the country. Doctor Michael Jhung, an influenza expert with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, " This is in the recent memory of many people. They tend to underestimate the effects of the flu, but it puts several hundred thousand people in the hospital every year. It can kill up to 50,000 people every year, and there are certain groups, people with underlying medical conditions, the elderly and the very young, who are at risk for severe illness from flu. We strongly encourage people to get vaccinated, and we'd like them to do so as soon as possible.
The Huffington Post reported yesterday that experts expect the current outbreak to be the worst in 10 years. 41 states are impacted by growing numbers of cases, with hospitals and emergency rooms filled with flu victims.18 states expect the outbreak to reach epidemic proportions. So far, 18 children have died as a result of complications from the flu.
If you haven't been vaccinated, do so as soon as possible. The flu vaccine is available at your doctor's office, as well as nearly every major drug store chain in the country. If you are uninsured, under-insured or in a low income bracket, contact your local health department for free clinic locations. Symptoms of influenza include high fever and chills, body aches, nausea and vomiting and upper respiratory symptoms, including a severe cough. Symptoms can begin suddenly. The current vaccine protects most people but there is a slight chance for infection even after inoculation.
If you experience these symptoms, see your healthcare professional immediately. Anti-viral medications such as Tamiflu may help to ease the symptoms and shorten the course of the disease. The flu is a highly contagious disease. If you become ill, stay home. Keep your children home from school until your doctor declares them no longer contagious. The CDC website has detailed information about this current outbreak, as well as recommendations on the best way to treat the flu.