Precautions and Preparations You Can Take for Flu Season, Coronavirus Concerns (UPDATED 2/5/19)

The Somerville Health and Human Services (HHS) Department is sharing information to help keep the public informed about a respiratory illness caused by a new coronavirus -- named “2019-nCoV” -- that was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and continues to spread.

This week, the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in Massachusetts, however the risk to the public within the state of Massachusetts remains low. A Massachusetts man in his 20s received a confirmed diagnosis soon after returning from Wuhan, China. There have been 11 case of infection with 2019 novel coronavirus reported in the United States. The City of Somerville continues to monitor reports and information regarding the spread of the Coronavirus from the CDC and the MDPH and will share information with the community as it becomes available.

The HHS Department, which includes Somerville’s public school nurses, tracks illness in the schools and participates in regular conference calls to monitor emerging information and we are prepared to respond to any updated directives from the CDC and MDPH.

To date, MDPH has taken the following actions:

  • Established an Incident Command Structure to facilitate regular dissemination of information from federal and state partners to statewide stakeholders.
  • Launched a new website that provides up-to-date information on the status of novel coronavirus for all residents: https://www.mass.gov/2019coronavirus.
  • Developed and disseminated clinical advisories to all Massachusetts health care providers and issued guidance to hospitals, health systems, and Emergency Medical Services.
  • Scheduled calls with other key health care partners including local boards of health.

Reminders and Information for Flu Season

Cold and flu symptoms are typical during this time and it is important to remind people of the elevated risk of exposure to respiratory illnesses including influenza. It is important to emphasize the risk of exposure to seasonal influenza is a primary public health concern in Massachusetts at this time. Respiratory viruses are generally spread through respiratory secretions (droplets from coughs and sneezes) of an infected person to another person. Although the risk of the coronavirus to Massachusetts residents remains low, people are advised to take many of the same steps they do to help prevent colds and the flu.

HHS recommends following the standard flu protocols during this time of year to keep everyone safe and healthy:

  • Wash your hands often, using soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer until soap and water is available. 
  • Cough/sneeze into a tissue. Dispose of used tissues immediately into a trash can. If you don’t have a tissue, cough/sneeze into the crook of your elbow, not your hands.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Monitor your temperature. (A fever is 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.) Remain home from work or school if you have a fever or you aren’t feeling well. 
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects frequently. 

If you have persistent symptoms, contact your primary care provider or visit the emergency room. 

Flu Vaccines Still Available in Somerville

As of February 4, 2020 the Somerville Health and Human Services Department still has free flu vaccines available for residents ages 3 and older, with or without insurance. If you or someone you know is still in need of a flu shot it is still strongly encouraged that you receive one as soon as possible. HHS will be offering “Walk-in” clinic hours on Thursday evenings from 5 to 7 p.m. at the City Hall Annex, located at 50 Evergreen Ave, until the supply is exhausted. If this time is not convenient for you, please call and make an appointment with one of our public health nurses.

For more information on the Coronavirus, please see the CDC and MDPH links below. If you have any other questions please don’t hesitate to call the Somerville Health and Human Services Department at 617-625-6600 ext. 4320.

Additional Resources