Vaccines have drastically reduced infant death and disability caused by preventable diseases in the United States. In the 1950's, nearly every child developed measles, and unfortunately, some even died. Today, thanks to the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine, many healthcare providers have never seen a case of measles.
Vaccines save lives!
Vaccines can protect children from 14 serious diseases before they turn 2! It's easy to think of these as diseases of the past. But the truth is they still exist. Children in the United States can—and do—still get some of these diseases.
"As a pediatrician myself, I speak with many parents about vaccinations. There is no debate regarding the fact that vaccines prevent severe disease and death from infections, many of which are still common throughout the world. I tell parents that taking steps to ensure that they themselves and all individuals in the household are vaccinated is crucial to creating an environment where every child is safe from preventable diseases," said Jenifer Leaf Jaeger, M.D., M.P.H., Director of the Infectious Disease Bureau and Director of Population Health at the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC).
BPHC provides fact sheets on many diseases for which children can be vaccinated in multiple languages, including Chinese, Haitian Creole, Spanish and others. Click on the links below to learn more:
You can also provide extra protection to your children by making sure those around them are current on their vaccines. When family members and caregivers of children are vaccinated, they are not only protecting their own health from vaccine preventable diseases, but they are also helping to limit the children's exposure to these diseases. This is especially important in the children's first few months of life when they haven't been fully vaccinated.
Talk to your health care provider to make sure you and your children are up-to-date with their vaccinations.
To learn more about vaccines, visit Vaccination Myths and Facts.
On the morning of Sunday, April 21, the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) was notified about an aircraft landing at Logan International Airport with passengers presenting with gastrointestinal illness symptoms.
A group of 40 high school students and chaperones were on board an American Airlines plane returning from Ecuador, with a layover in Miami.
Boston EMS transported 13 of those 40 to Mass General Hospital after landing and on-site evaluation by EMTs.
BPHC’s Infectious Disease Bureau began to coordinate with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Massport to investigate the cause of the illness. While the investigation is ongoing, the illness appears to be food related. Preliminary results suggest that infection occurred during a family style dinner the entire group ate before departing Ecuador.
Since Sunday, at least 30 of the individuals in the group have reported symptoms. Norovirus has been identified among several travelers. The Massachusetts State Public Health Laboratory is continuing its evaluation. Results of this investigation are pending at this time.
BPHC has been in communication with treating hospitals as well as the Dover-Sherborn Regional High School, the Dover Board of Health and the tour company regarding findings as well as treatment and prevention recommendations.
BPHC provides fact sheets on Norovirus including symptoms, prevention and treatment in English, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, Spanish and Vietnamese online. Anyone who may have been on the plane and believes they may be experiencing symptoms are encouraged to contact their primary healthcare provider.
Media Contact: Caitlin McLaughlin, firstname.lastname@example.org, 617-534-2821
The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) is holding a meeting of the Boston Biosafety Committee, an advisory group appointed by the BPHC Executive Director under the BPHC Biological Laboratory Regulation.
The meeting will be held on Thursday, April 25, 2019 from 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm, at 1010 Massachusetts Avenue, 2nd Floor, Hayes Conference Room.
The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) would like to advise residents and community members in Hyde Park and West Roxbury of upcoming sprayings to help control mosquito populations in selected neighborhood areas. BPHC partners with the Suffolk County Mosquito Control Project (SCMCP) to protect Boston residents from mosquito-borne disease transmission.
SCMCP will be conducting a helicopter application of the biological larvicide, Bti, to control mosquito larvae over large wetlands.
- Wetlands currently being evaluated include the Fowl Meadow area of Hyde Park, the Hancock Woods area near VFW Parkway and Corey Street and wetlands near Millennium Park in West Roxbury.
- The application will be conducted between April 22 and April 26.
- The larvicide will be applied in a granular formulation by a helicopter flying low directly over the wetlands.
Residents do not need to take any special precautions for this application.
Mosquito species have different breeding habits, but most want to lay their eggs near water – usually in vegetation or in still water. To help prevent mosquitoes from breeding, BPHC advises residents to limit places around the home where standing water can collect. People should turn over unused flower pots, buckets, wheelbarrows and garbage cans; remove leaves and other debris that can clog gutters and trap water; dispose of or cover old tires; and cover swimming pools when not in use.
Click here for more information about the mosquito control work of BPHC and its partnership with SCMCP.
About Bti: The material to be applied, Bti (Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis), is a natural bacterium found in soil. The EPA classifies Bti as a relatively non-toxic pesticide. Bti is considered a target selective and environmentally compatible pesticide that affects mosquito larvae and a few closely related aquatic insects in the fly family. Once applied Bti stays suspended in water for 24 to 48 hours and then biodegrades as it settles to the bottom. The product name of the Bti is VectoBac GR (EPA Reg. #73049-486).
For further information contact the Suffolk County Mosquito Control Project at 781-899-5730.
About the Boston Public Health Commission
The Boston Public Health Commission, one of the country's oldest health departments, is an independent public agency providing a wide range of health services and programs. It is governed by a seven-member board of health appointed by the Mayor of Boston.
Public service and access to quality health care are the cornerstones of our mission - to protect, preserve, and promote the health and well-being of all Boston residents, particularly those who are most vulnerable. The Commission's more than 40 programs are grouped into six bureaus: Child, Adolescent & Family Health; Community Health Initiatives; Homeless Services; Infectious Disease; Recovery Services; and Emergency Medical Services.
Most sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can be cured with the right medicine. Bacterial infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis can be cured with antibiotics. Remember to take the medicine as directed and never share your medication with others. If it is safe to do so, talk to your sex partner(s) about getting tested for STIs. If your current sex partner is infected, it is important they be treated at the same time to prevent you from becoming re-infected. Having an STI and getting it treated does not protect you from future infections!
Some STIs, such as HIV aren't curable, but they are treatable. Talk to your healthcare provider to start treatment as soon as possible. Early treatment not only helps you stay healthy but can also reduce your chance of spreading the virus to someone else.
If left untreated, STIs can cause very serious health problems such as:
Gonorrhea can cause men and women to become infertile.
Long term infection of syphilis can damage internal organs.
HIV can progress to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).
Having one STI also increases your chances of getting other STIs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chlamydia rates across the country have inreased 22% since 2013 and gonorrhea rates have gone up by 67% in the same time frame. However, even more troubling are increases in syphillis rates, including a 154% increase in congenital syphililis rates since 2013. Looking specifically at the Commonwealth, the Massachsuetts Department of Public Health reports similar increases in those three STIs.
This is the final blog in our series as part of National Sexually Transmitted Infection Awareness Month. To learn more about sextually transmitted infections, visit www.bphc.org/STI.
Direct services and community coalition focused on racial inequities and providing linkage to care
The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) announced today that it has been awarded a new five-year grant of $4.8 million from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) for the Boston Healthy Start Initiative (BHSI). The BHSI is focused on eliminating racial inequities in infant mortality and related birth outcomes through direct support of pregnant and parenting women, children and fathers through care coordination, connection to resources, health education, and advocacy.
This new grant focuses on the neighborhoods of Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan and Hyde Park which are areas of the city that have higher than average infant mortality rates. According to data analyzed by BPHC staff, including some from the most recent Health of Boston report, the infant mortality rate between 2013-2015 for Black women in these four neighborhoods was 10.3 per 1,000 live births is almost double the overall Boston rate (5.8) and is 3.5 times the rate for White women citywide (2.9). Data analysis also shows promise, as the rate of infant mortality in Black babies decreased by 36% between 2006-2015, suggesting that the long-term investments in programs such as BSHI may be having an impact on health outcomes.
"The Boston Healthy Start Initiative takes a comprehensive, lived-experience based approach to address some of the causes linked to infant mortality. We have built on the existing community assets and significant progress that has been made over the years. This funding allows us to provide services directly to families and engage the community in addressing the root causes of racial inequities influencing infant mortality," said Monica Valdes Lupi, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission.
This grant will fund case managers, known as Family Partners, embedded within the Codman Square Health Center, Mattapan Community Health Center, Whitter Street Health Center, Bowdoin Street Health Center and the Teen & Tot Program at Boston Medical Center.
BHSI Family Partners provide one-on-one support to mothers during pregnancy and through the first 18 months of the infant's life to support them reach their goals for their family, including help enrolling in health insurance, health education, support with breastfeeding and safe sleep, accessing mental or behavioral health services, among others. They also provide linkage to resources to address social determinants of health: housing and food insecurity issues, education, employment and legal topics. Importantly, family partners bring their lived-experiences to their work which often includes being an advocate on behalf of mothers and babies.
"We are pleased to receive this funding to continue our commitment, advocacy and services in striving for birth equity and optimal population health for individuals of color and communities disproportionately impacted by health inequities. We have made progress in infant mortality rates however there is still much more work to be done, said Heavenly Mitchell, Director, Healthy Start Systems at BPHC.
In addition to funding for family partners, this new grant will fund staffing and programmatic expenses to operate two other programs coordinated by BSHI: the Community Action Network (CAN) and the Father Friendly Initiative. The CAN is a group of community residents and organizations working together to reduce racial inequities in infant mortality and poor birth outcomes in Boston through policy and community level changes. The Father Friendly Initiative provides opportunities to men living in the city of Boston to become fully involved members of their families and community.
BPHC was one of the original grantees of funding from HRSA when it began piloting HSI in 1991. Phone numbers for residents to connect with a BHSI Family Partner can be found on its website, by clicking here.
The Boston Healthy Start Initiative is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Boston Public Health Commission.
Many sexually transmitted infections (sometimes called sexually transmitted diseases (STD) or STI) don't cause any symptoms. If you're having sex, getting tested is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health and it's the only way to know for sure if you're infected.
Yearly STI testing is recommended for:
More frequent testing (every 3 to 6 months) is recommended for people at high risk, these include:
You should also get tested:
All adults and adolescents from ages 13 to 64 should be tested at least once for HIV and anyone who has unsafe sex or shares injection drug equipment should get tested for HIV at least once a year.
If you're not comfortable talking with your regular healthcare provider about STI testing, find a clinic near you that provides confidential and free or low-cost testing.
Click here for a list of free and confidential STI testing clinics in Boston.
You can also find a testing site near you by calling the Mayor's Health Line at 617-534-5050 or visit https://www.helpsteps.com.
The Community Action Network (CAN) is a group of community residents, representatives from community-based organizations, healthcare, government, and other groups that are working together to eliminate racial and ethnic inequities in infant mortality and poor birth outcomes in Boston by mobilizing the community to do outreach, education, and policy change. Community engagement and leadership is a core strategy of CAN.
The CAN hosted an 'Appreciation' themed meeting on March 21st at the Great Hall at Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester. It was a wonderful meeting where CAN members got to reconnect with each other, celebrate CAN accomplishments, and share resources and announcements. A total of 51 CAN members were in attendance, including 22 new members.
"What the Community Action Network is doing through community engagement and advocacy to achieve health equity is a best practice," said Monica Valdes Lupi, Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission, who was a special guest speaker at the recent meeting.
Nine CAN members were awarded for outstanding commitment and dedication. If you'd like to learn more about the Community Action Network go to www.bphc.org/CAN or email CAN@BPHC.org.
The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) received a grant of almost $15 million to fund core medical and support services for people living with HIV/AIDS and their families. BPHC will administer the grant funds to providers located in the Boston Eligible Metropolitan Area (EMA) to improve health outcomes and reduce HIV transmission among hard-to-reach populations and those that are under or uninsured. The grant comes from HRSA’s Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, a part of the United States Department of Health & Human Services.
“Everyone that is diagnosed with HIV/AIDS deserves the chance to access treatment”, said Chief of Health and Human Services, Marty Martinez. “The Ryan White Program and others supported by the city are intentional in distributing funds for services offered in a variety of settings, including AIDS service organizations, community health centers, substance use treatment agencies, and minority-based agencies. This model is one that works. These new funds will enable us to do even more now as part of a nationwide effort to end HIV/AIDS.”
The Boston EMA is comprised of 308 cities and towns within 10 counties including seven counties in Massachusetts and three counties in New Hampshire. As of December 31, 2017, there were 18,149 people living with HIV/AIDS reported in the Boston EMA. However, in 2017, there were 227 people diagnosed with AIDS, a 27 percent decrease in AIDS diagnoses since 2013.
“This funding demonstrates the commitment of the Mayor, the Boston Public Health Commission and the Boston Ryan White Planning Council to provide life supporting and lifesaving services and medications to our neighbors here in the greater Boston area and southern New Hampshire while we continue our work to stop new HIV infections,” said Stephen Corbett, Chair of the Boston EMA Planning Council.
This funding, together with funding from the City of Boston and other sources, plays a critical role in supporting patients in accessing care across the continuum of HIV prevention and care services. Comprehensive HIV care includes access to antiretroviral therapy, substance use treatment services, mental health treatment, and oral health care. This grant focuses on reducing health disparities and barriers to treatment as well, providing funding support regarding transportation, nutrition, and housing. Included the new grant is Minority AIDS Initiative (MAI) funding that focuses on reducing racial and ethnic disparities throughout the HIV care continuum.
“We are making a real difference in the lives of thousands of people living with HIV/AIDS through the Ryan White Program. The funding empowers patients to access medication and the services that are right for them in order to help them keep their viral load low, and in many cases, thanks to this program, at an undetectable level. The robust funding being provided now will allow us to provide even more of the important wrap-around services patients need,” said Jenifer Leaf Jaeger, MD, MPH, Director of the Infectious Disease Bureau at BPHC.
In January, the Boston Public Health Commission and The Massachusetts Department of Public Health reported an outbreak of new HIV cases in persons who inject drugs in Boston. A couple of months later, a similar outbreak was announced to be occurring in other parts of the state, including in Worcester. These follow the outbreak in Lowell and Lawrence in 2017. The increasing rates of HIV infections in vulnerable populations demonstrates the importance of funds for early detection, treatment and comprehensive prevention efforts targeting people who inject drugs.
The Ryan White Services Division at the Boston Public Health Commission serves as the grantee for the Ryan White Part A grant. Click here to learn more about their work.
April is National Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) Awareness month. It is the perfect time to discuss what we know about STIs and what we can do to protect ourselves from them!
(Note: The hyperlinks above direct you to Fact Sheets that are viewable online and downloadable as a PDF. Each are available in English, Spanish, Cape Verdean Creole, Haitian Creole, Chinese, Portuegese and Vietnamese.)
There are many factors that can increase someone’s risk of infection, including environmental, social and cultural factors. Young people ages 15–24 continue to be at highest risk for most STIs.
The good news? STIs are preventable! There are always risks associated with having sex, but there are ways to reduce your risk of getting STIs. Limit your risk by taking the following steps:
- Always use a latex, nitrile or polyurethane condom or barrier (dental dam) when having anal, vaginal, or oral sex.
- Limit your number of sex partners.
- Talk with your partner about their STI status and getting tested.
- Talk with your health care provider about safer sex practices and getting tested.
- Understand that having sex while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol can increase the likelihood of unprotected sex.
The only 100% effective way to prevent STIs is to not have sex.
All STIs, even HIV, are treatable, and most are curable. That’s why it is important to get tested! The sooner you know you have an STI, the better you can protect your health. If not treated, some STIs can lead to serious health problems. If you have an STI, talk to your partner if it is safe to do so. Keep in mind that if your partner is not treated, your partner will continue to pass the infection back to you, and you will need to be treated again!
Stay tuned for more STI blogs throughout the month!