As Boston Mayor Thomas Menino declared a health emergency on Wednesday morning due to Boston's flu outbreak, the town of Bedford is also battling a high number of flu cases this season.
Bedford has had 14 confirmed cases of the flu so far this season, according to Bedford Board of Health Director Heidi Porter, a significant jump from last season.
At this time last year, Bedford had no confirmed cases of the flu, Porter said.
And while there are only 14 confirmed cases of the flu in Bedford, those are only the cases that have been medically confirmed, according to Porter.
In Boston, there have been more than 700 reported cases in the city so far this flu season, according to the Boston Public Health Commission. That's 10 times the average number of cases through the entire last year.
“This is the worst flu season we’ve seen since 2009, and people should take the threat of flu seriously,” Mayor Menino said. “This is not only a health concern, but also an economic concern for families, and I’m urging residents to get vaccinated if they haven’t already. It’s the best thing you can do to protect yourself and your family. If you’re sick, please stay home from work or school.”
Flu cases now account for more than 4 percent of all emergency department visits at Boston hospitals, compared to about 1 percent during non-influenza season, according to the Boston Public Health Commission. 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 others.
The steps to prevent contracting a case of the flu are straighforward, according to Porter.
"The main steps to take to avoid getting the flu are to get the flu shot, wash your hands and cover your cough," Porter said.
Fortunately, there's plenty of vaccine to go around this year. The Bedford Board of Health is still offering free flu vaccination to Bedford residents.
Residents can call the Board of Health at 781-275-6507 to make an appointment for a vaccine.
You can also use the widget above to find flu shots at pharmacies, clinics and other locations near you.
The Red Cross offers several tips to reduce your exposure to the flu, like washing your hands often, coughing and sneezing into your elbow instead of your hand and others on this list.
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