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This year, the first full week of October marks the start of Massachusetts’ flu surveillance monitoring and reporting for the 2019-2020 flu season. To monitor flu in the state, DPH uses a variety of disease surveillance methods including lab testing, voluntary reporting by health care providers on the proportion of patients presenting with influenza-like illness, and reports from emergency departments on flu-related hospitalizations.

With the arrival of flu season comes a recommendation from the Department of Public Health (DPH) to prevent the spread of flu by getting vaccinated now.  And although the flu vaccine won’t prevent every case of the flu, it’s still the most effective way to reduce the risk of serious illness.

We’re proud that in Massachusetts, our flu vaccination rates among children and adolescents are among the highest in the nation. In fact, 81 percent of children ages 6 months through 17 years had a flu vaccination last year. But it’s important to remind people of all ages to be vaccinated because it helps protect friends and family members from getting the flu.

Every year in the United States, millions of people get the flu, hundreds of thousands are hospitalized, and thousands die from flu-related illnesses. Some people are at higher risk of serious health problems when they get the flu, including pregnant women, infants, older adults, and people with medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, neurological and neuromuscular conditions, and weakened immune systems.

Flu can be very serious. The most common symptoms of flu are fever, cough, and sore throat. Symptoms can also include body aches, headache, chills, runny nose and feeling very tired. Since the start of September, Massachusetts has had 82 lab-confirmed flu cases reported, well within the expected range for this time of year.

To protect yourself and those around you, DPH recommends the following:

  • Get a flu shot. Flu vaccine is available across the state at pharmacies, health care provider offices, school and workplace vaccination clinics, and flu vaccine clinics sponsored by local boards of health. Find a list of flu vaccine availability by zip code at
  • Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, and use hand sanitizer when washing is not possible.
  • Cover your cough or and sneeze with your sleeve – not your hands.
  • Stay home when you are sick with fever and cough or sore throat, and keep children home from school and daycare when they are sick.
  • Contact your healthcare provider if you think you have the flu, especially if you have health conditions making you more likely to develop severe illness when sick with the flu. The provider may prescribe antiviral medications which work best when started early in the course of an illness.

For more information about influenza, visit, or call your health care provider, local board of health, or DPH at (617) 983-6800.

Written By:

Communications Director at the Department of Public Health

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