While Boston Mayor Thomas Menino declared a health emergency Wednesday, Jan. 9 due to more than 700 reported cases in Boston in this flu season, Belmont's Health Department can count the number of residents hit by the ailment sweeping the country on two hands.
While the Boston Public Health Commission report seeing 10 times the average number of cases through the entire last year, Belmont's Health Director Stefan Russakow is reporting nine documented flu cases in town.
"There has not been a spike in flu cases here in town," reported Russakow in an email.
But that does not mean residents should put down their guard in regards to taking preventive measures against the grippe, said Russakow.
"Cases of influenza, or 'the Flu' continue to increase in Massachusetts and across the US according to recent statistics from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While the timing of flu season is impossible to predict, based on past experience it’s likely that flu activity will continue for some time," said Russakow.
While the influenza outbreak has been within the normal range for an average flu season, that is not the case down the Charles River.
“This is the worst flu season we’ve seen since 2009, and people should take the threat of flu seriously,” Mayor Menino said.
Flu cases now account for more than four percent of all emergency department visits at Boston hospitals, compared to approximately one 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.
Russakow said it is not too late to get vaccinated.
“Vaccination offers the best protection against influenza, and this year’s flu vaccine appears to be effective against the types of Flu in the community,” said Russakow.
So far this season, 91 percent of the influenza viruses that have been analyzed at CDC are like the viruses included in the 2012-2013 flu vaccine.
Other ways to prevent getting and spreading the fluinclude frequent hand washing, staying home from work or school when you are sick and covering your cough with a tissue or the inside of your sleeve.
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.