Some see flu outbreak in city neighborhoods

By 
Martine Louis
Feb. 13, 2008

Boston residents have flocked to some local health facilities at an alarming rate in recent weeks, with symptoms of fevers, body aches and fatigue. Dr. Joe Bresee and Center for Disease Control spokesperson Curtis Allen confirmed there was a recent influenza epidemic in the U.S. during a Feb. 8 CDC conference, and that the situation in Massachusetts called for concern.

"While there has been no official report of a flu outbreak in Massachusetts, we have received many reports of widespread activity in local areas, such as Dorchester and surrounding neighborhoods - there is no doubt there's an outbreak," said Allen.

Carolyn Dolan, nurse practitioner for Caritas Christi and the coordinator of Carney's flu clinic program, says she wants the community to know that it is not too late to take action.

"The most important thing now is prevention," said Dolan who has treated nearly thirty patients with the flu over the last week. "We are particularly concerned about the elderly and young children, because their immune systems are not as strong, but anyone can get it. Wash your hands at all times, be cautious in public areas and be sure to take your flu shots."

At the Mattapan Community Health Center, nurse practitioner, Tarma Johnson, says that while numerous residents have come in with issues of viral upper respiratory, there have been very few flu diagnostics. "Respiratory issues can be related to the flu at times, but for the most part there has been no official outbreak that we have seen," said Johnson.

While vaccination remains the best option in preventing the illness, CDC officials have announced a new strain of influenza is emerging that this year's vaccine doesn't specifically target. "Generally the vaccine is geared towards influenza A, but the flu this year is type B," said Dolan.

"Usually a vaccine is based on a combo of two strains generated from the previous year to anticipate the virus and match it with a cure. Vaccination can still protect you, but not 100 percent. The flu season is in full swing. Get educated and get to your doctors before any illness develops into something much more serious like pneumonia. You still have time to get vaccinated."

Carney has vaccines available, to set appointments call 617- 296-4000 x4901.