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Boston Holds City-Wide Swine Flu Preparedness Summit

This article is more than 11 years old.
Mayor Thomas Menino announced Friday that he's requested more swine flu vaccine from the federal government. (Meghna Chakrabarti/WBUR)
Mayor Thomas Menino announced Friday that he's requested more swine flu vaccine from the federal government. (Meghna Chakrabarti/WBUR)

More than 400 medical professionals, business owners and city officials gathered for a first-ever city-wide influenza preparedness summit Friday. The meeting occurred as the World Health Organization warned that a second wave of swine flu will gather speed and intensity in coming months.

WHO's Western Pacific director, Shin Young-soo, said Friday that most countries may see swine flu cases double every three to four days for several months until peak transmission is reached. "At a certain point, there will seem to be an explosion in case numbers," Shin said in remarks at a symposium for health officials and experts in Beijing on Friday. "It is certain there will be more cases and more deaths."

Boston confirmed 440 swine flu cases between April and June. City officials expect to see swine flu cases this fall, along with a resurgence in seasonal influenza. The Boston Public Health Commission plans to launch city-wide seasonal influenza vaccination campaigns in September, several weeks earlier than usual. The BPHC will be receiving an additional 50,000 doses of seasonal flu vaccine from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

The Boston Public Health Commission will offer one to two public clinics every week. The agency will also start training and mobilizing Medical Reserve Corps volunteers, EMS paramedics, BPHC nurses and partnering with health professional schools to provide vaccination training to nursing and medical school students.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino called for cooperation from businesses, unions and community-based organizations in preparing for potential influenza outbreaks. Menino said city employees will receive two paid hours off to get vaccinated. He encouraged private businesses to do the same. "We've also asked all employers in the city of Boston to give their employees two hours off to get vaccinated," the mayor said. "So that's a way of getting people involved and preventing the spread of the flu."

Vaccinations for swine flu, also known as the H1N1 virus, are expected to be available in October. Health officials plan to offer the vaccine to at-risk populations, specifically pregnant women, children 18 and younger and people with pre-existing medical conditions that make them more susceptible to swine flu.

Menino said he has requested more swine flu vaccine from the federal government.

Public health officials also announced a new integrated influenza plan that includes three levels of response based on the degree and intensity of a potential swine flu outbreak. The city will be posting flu prevention messages on billboards in Dorchester and Mattapan, and on the sides of MBTA trains and buses. Special flu units at local health care facilities are on standby for more severe outbreaks.

However, Menino encouraged city residents to visit one of Boston's 27 community health centers for vaccinations.

Carol Johnson, Boston Superintendent of Schools, said public schools will not be closing if swine flu infects small numbers of students. Thirteen Boston public schools were closed in the spring outbreak. This time, parents will be asked to keep sick children at home, Johnson said.

The city also plans to make special efforts to reach out to Boston's minority communities, said Ann Scales, communications director at the Boston Public Health Commission. In the spring outbreak, "three out of four swine flu hospitalizations were black or Latino patients," Scales said. "Boston has to work harder to get information to these communities."

This program aired on August 21, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

Meghna Chakrabarti Twitter Host, On Point
Meghna Chakrabarti is the host of On Point.


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