A registered nurse administers a flu shot at a Boston, Mass. health center.
A flu outbreak in Boston has reached such massive levels the city's mayor declared a public health emergency Wednesday.
“This is the worst flu season we’ve seen since 2009, and people should take the threat of flu seriously,” Mayor Thomas Menino said in a statement. “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.”
The numbers are staggering. Boston has seen 700 confirmed cases of the flu since October. That's 10 times the number of cases reported by this time in 2012.
It's not the just the high number of cases that's scary. According to the city, 25% of those flu cases were so serious, people were hospitalized.
Boston isn't alone. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says at least 29 states are reporting influenza-like illness, and doctor visits for flu symptoms have climbed from 2.8% to 5.6% in the last four weeks.
How to Protect Yourself and Your Family
The CDC has three major recommendations:
1. Get the flu vaccine
The CDC says a flu vaccine is the most important protective measure you can take.
2. Take everyday preventative actions
These are the basics we all know, but don't always follow: wash your hands; cover your mouth when you sneeze and cough; avoid touching your nose, eyes and mouth.
3. Take antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them
Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics and can help shorten the length of time you're sick.
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Ariel Alexis Cajar, 12, from Saboga Island, looks at fishing boats anchored at the Panama bay in Panama City, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012.