Staying Safe from the Flu

Early last week, the city of Boston officially declared a public health emergency due to the rising number of reported cases of influenza. A few days later, New York made the same declaration, urging citizens to take the proper precautions so as to prevent a pandemic.

That puts the Tri-Town in a potentially dangerous position. The South Coast is, more or less, bookended by both cities and many local residents commute regularly to the Boston area for work, which can increase potential for local infections.

“We’re all at risk,” said Betsy Dunn, public health nurse for Marion and Rochester. “It’s a much stronger strain, more virulent strain, than in past years.”

Dunn, along with nurse Kathy Downey, ran a flu shot clinic on Monday, January 14 for local residents who had still not received their vaccine.

“It’s been a steady flow of people today,” said Dunn.

Dunn and Downey offered flu shot clinics back in October during the preventative season, but the surge in reported cases in Boston has prompted municipalities all over the eastern portion of the Commonwealth to make more doses available this month.

Dunn said they had a surplus of vaccines left over from the autumn and said that they purchased more doses for this next round of shots, so there is no shortage here as has been reported in other communities around the state.

If you didn’t make it to the flu clinic on Monday, don’t sweat it. Residents can always call their local public health nurses to schedule an appointment for the shot, which really won’t make you sick.

“It’s a killed virus vaccine. It’s not a live virus so it won’t make you sick with flu,” Dunn said. While many recipients of the flu shot tend to report body aches or a sore throat, those are expected side effects and not an indication of influenza infection. Dunn said some people take ill following the shot but it’s usually because they had already contracted something minor previous to vaccination.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends every US citizen over the age of six months be vaccinated against flu, but young children and the elderly are most susceptible to infection. In addition to getting a flu shot, the CDC offers these suggestions for preventing the spread of harmful germs:

• Wash your hands frequently with hot, soapy water.

• Clean and disinfect commonly-touched areas of your home, such as doorknobs, banisters and kitchen counters.

• Cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow rather than the palm of your hand.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

• If you experience flu-like symptoms, such as sweating, sore throat or coughing, stay home for at least 24 hours.

By Eric Tripoli

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