First Flu Death of the Season

The man in his sixties had underlying health problems.

Boston health officials announced Friday that a man in his sixties with underlying health conditions was the first flu death linked to influenza this season in the city. The Boston Public Health Commission says that since October there’s been 158 reported cases of flu cases in Boston, resulting in 47 hospitalizations. This is happening even though Massachusetts leads the nation in vaccination rates.

“We extend our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of the deceased for their loss,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission in a press release. “We often forget how serious of an illness the flu can be, especially for vulnerable populations, and it’s important that we keep encouraging people to get vaccinated as flu season can stretch into March or April.”

Health officials are asking residents to contact their primary care physician, community health center, or local pharmacy to get vaccinated if they have not already. The vaccine is recommended for everyone six months of age and older, and it must be given on an annual basis as flu virus strains change from year to year. Certain populations, including the elderly, young children, pregnant women, and people with underlying health conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease, are at greater risk of becoming seriously ill if they contract the flu.

Health officials suggest the following tips to avoid getting sick or spreading germs:

  • Contact your primary care physician, community health center, or local pharmacy to get vaccinated against the flu.
  • 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 sanitizer.
  • Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs can spread easily this way.
  • As much as possible, avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • If you have a fever or feel ill, stay home.

The BPHC has free flu shot vouchers that were donated by Walgreens as part of the December Vaccinate Boston campaign. Residents are encouraged to call the Mayor’s Health Line at 617-534-5050 for more information.  The Walgreens vouchers are only redeemable for adults over the age of 18.