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Peabody Health Officials Urge Public to Get Flu Shots, Take Simple Preventative Steps

No public health emergency has been declared in Peabody, but confirmed cases of the flu are significantly up from previous years.

The city is not declaring a public health emergency at this time, as Boston did on Wednesday, but Peabody health officials are urging residents to get flu shots and observe some simple measures to protect themselves.

Boston Mayor Tom Menino declared an emergency in light of a dramatic increase in Boston residents who have come down with the flu amid a widespread outbreak across much of the country. The number of confirmed cases of the seasonal flu virus in Boston has increased tenfold from figures in recent years.

"Peabody has also seen a dramatic increase in the number of confirmed flu cases reported to us this season," said city Health Director Sharon Cameron Wednesday afternoon. Specific numbers were not immediately available.

"At this time, the Board of Health is urging the public to follow a number of simple measures they can use to help protect themselves," Cameron said, noting the information has been shared with the School Department and a condensed public message is running on Peabody Access TV.

Residents can also dial the Health Department's flu information line at 978-538-5758.

"We will continue to evaluate the situation on a daily basis and we will update our messages if the situation changes," Cameron said.

Those basic measures come from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the state Department of Public Health and foremost urge residents to get a flu shot as their best means of protection.

"There is an ample amount of flu vaccine available at locations throughout the region, including doctor's offices, pharmacies and local health departments," said Cameron. You can find more information here on where to get the vaccine.

Following that, the CDC and MDPH offer basic reminders to slow the spread of germs by covering your mouth or nose when sneezing or coughing, wash your hands, stay home if you're sick, how to distinguish the flu from a cold, how to care for someone who does have the flu, etc.

Links to the flyers can be found on the homepage of the city's website under "Flu Outbreak."

In the workplace, people are urged to find out if their employer has plans if an outbreak occurs, keep down on the spread of germs by routinely wiping down their work area and go home if they begin to feel sick.

By the same token, health officials urge employers to plan for emergencies and make sure workers are cross-trained so that critical business functions can continue if certain employees are out sick.

The CDC also says early treatment for those infected with the seasonal flu virus is particularly important for the elderly, young children, people with certain chronic health conditions and pregnant women, who are all at greater health risk.

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