2014 – 2015 MGH Central Flu Clinic Schedule

The 2014-2015 flu season is quickly approaching. Getting a flu shot is the best way to protect you and others from getting or spreading the flu.  We encourage all of our patients to consider getting a flu shot, especially those that are at high risk for getting the flu.  People who are high risk are:

  • People with medical conditions, like asthma and diabetes
  • Pregnant women
  • Children aged 6 months to 5 years
  • People older than  65 years of age
  • People who live with or care for others considered to be high-risk

Flu shots will be available on the MGH Main Campus on the following dates:

MGH Centralized Flu Shot Program
Wang Ambulatory Center Main Lobby
October 6th through November 21st
Monday-Friday:  8:00am-6:00pm
9:00am-3:00pm on Monday, October 13th (Columbus Day)


For more information, please call our flu hotline at 877-733-3737.  You can also visit or for more details.

Announcements, Health

UPDATED: Survival Kit for Cold & Flu Season * 2013-2014 *

Just Announced: Due to high demand for flu vaccine, the Central Flu Clinic has been extended to Friday, November 8th.


Your primary care doctor and the Massachusetts General Hospital want to do everything possible to keep you healthy during the flu season. People with certain chronic health conditions, even if the conditions are well managed, have a higher risk of becoming dangerously sick from the flu.

Here is what you can do:

• Get a flu shot every year*.
• The best time to get a flu shot is in the fall. The MGH will have a Central Flu Clinic in the Main Lobby of the Wang Building, Monday, September 23 – Friday, November 1, 2013. Monday to Friday, 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM (9:00 AM — 3:00 PM on Columbus Day, Monday, October 14).  No Saturday dates are planned for this year.  Please call the Toll Free Flu Shot Hotline at 1-877-733-3737 before you come in to confirm that we have vaccine in stock and that the clinic is open.
• If you live outside of Boston, your health center or primary care practice may have flu shot clinics as well. You may also get a flu shot at many locations in your community including boards of health, senior centers, or local drug stores.
For further information go to the MGH FluShot website at:
*if you think you are allergic to eggs, please contact your doctor

To protect your family’s health:

Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands.
Wash your hands often with soap and water. You can also use alcohol-based hand cleaners.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
Keep your home and work spaces clean.
Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care. Keep away from others as much as possible to keep from making them sick.
If you think you have the flu, call your primary care doctor’s office for advice. They are here to help!

Spread the word! Don’t spread the Flu!

Guest Post, Health

Notes about Pneumonia

By Aparna Mani, MD, PhD
MGH Medical Walk-In Unit

Aparna Mani, MD, PhD

Pneumonia is a disease that has been described since the time of Hippocrates.  Though the ancient Greeks accurately identified the symptoms that constitute pneumonia, it wasn’t until the mid-1800’s that a scientist named Edwin Klebs observed bacteria in the lungs of people who had died of pneumonia, pointing to infection as a major cause of this illness.  Simply put, pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs most commonly caused by infection.  It affects more than five million people in the United States and an estimated 450 million people worldwide each year, thus the World Health Organization has designated November 12th as World Pneumonia Day.

The lungs are composed of airways that bring in oxygen and alveoli (microscopic air sacs) that help deliver it to the bloodstream. The lungs have several defenses to protect against invading bacteria, viruses and other types of microorganisms.  These include mucus producing goblet cells and tiny hair-like projections called cilia—not to mention the body’s own immune system.  Sometimes these defenses may be overwhelmed or breached, allowing a particular microorganism to take hold and fester in the alveoli. The result is a local pool of infection that fills and plugs up the alveolus, much like pus in a skin wound. The sheer volume of infection makes it hard for immune cells to get in and do their job of breaking it down and clearing it out.  A person suffering from pneumonia may experience fever, shaking chills, fatigue, productive cough, chest pain and shortness of breath.  Contact your healthcare provider if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.

To diagnose pneumonia, healthcare providers rely on history of symptoms and a lung exam which includes listening to breathing sounds through a stethoscope and percussing the lungs (a special technique of tapping the chest) with their hands.  A chest x-ray may also be done, though it is not always necessary. The main treatment for bacterial pneumonia is antibiotics.  Providers often base their treatment on the most commonly known microorganism given age, risk factors and living environment, though mucus or sputum samples may also be obtained to identify the specific bacteria causing the pneumonia. This allows providers to better pinpoint the appropriate drug to use in treatment. Depending on the severity of symptoms and other risk factors such as age and overall health, healthcare providers may choose to treat an individual as an outpatient or admit them to the hospital.  With treatment a patient may stabilize and begin to improve within a few days, but it may take a few weeks before symptoms resolve completely.

Risk factors such as smoking, excessive alcohol use, immunodeficiency, and chronic illnesses such as COPD, kidney disease and diabetes can increase an individual’s susceptibility for developing pneumonia. Seniors (people 65 and older) and young children are also at increased risk.  The pneumococcal vaccine developed against bacteria commonly known to cause pneumonia is recommended for seniors and anyone with the above risk factors. Talk to your healthcare provider about whether vaccination is indicated for you. In addition to vaccination, pneumonia can be prevented with everyday good hygiene practices such as hand washing, coughing or sneezing into an elbow or sleeve, and taking care of one’s overall health– including keeping blood sugar in good control.


Your Fall Immunization Checklist

By Eileen B. Wyner, NP
Bulfinch Medical Group

Eileen W

It’s hard to believe that the last few days of the lazy, hazy days of summer are upon us. I don’t need the calendar to clue me in on this. I just visit my backyard deck and notice the sun has moved so I don’t need the table umbrella anymore to deflect the sun. I do need a hard hat, though, because the acorns are dropping like rocks from the sky!  I don’t have any children I have to get ready for back to school, but I have always been a lover of the back to school mentality:  organization, new beginnings, and fresh notepads!  Now, revealing my love of notepads instead of iPads reveals my generation, so I will admit that Fall also gets me to thinking about my Winter health maintenance.  I want to briefly review some immunizations that should be regularly updated for people living with Diabetes that you can add to your list of things to discuss with your health care provider at your next visit. 

Prevention of illness is important for everyone, but people living with Diabetes may have more complications from some common illnesses.  Everyone with Diabetes should get the flu vaccination in the Fall.  Flu can be a very serious disease that could put you at greater risk for developing pneumonia, and there are reported fatalities due to complications.  The flu vaccine will not prevent other common cold weather illnesses, but it will greatly decrease the likelihood of developing flu.  The flu vaccine is developed each year based on the type of flu that was seen the previous year and projections of the type of flu anticipated in the present season – that’s why it needs to be given annually.

Prevention of pneumonia is also very important as this is another serious disease with the potential for significant complications and death. This vaccine should be given to all people with Diabetes at diagnosis. You will require a booster if it has been more than 5 years since you received the first immunization and if you were immunized before you were 65 years old. There is no scientific data available at this point that supports more frequent re-vaccination.

Tetanus shots might not be high on your list when it comes to preparing for Winter illnesses because rusty nails is what usually pops to mind.  When we received our tetanus immunizations as a child, it was meant to prevent tetanus (lockjaw), diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough).  Diptheria and pertussis were thought to be well controlled worldwide, but a tetanus booster would be given every 10 years primarily to protect us if we had a broken bone or a serious cut.  However in recent years, pertussis has increased across the country and a change in vaccine has been recommended.  The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), the group that develops vaccination recommendations, updated their guidelines for Tdap in June 2012.  The new guidelines state that all adults receive a single dose of Tdap, regardless of the interval since the last dose of tetanus. Subsequent tetanus booster doses should continue to be given at 10 year intervals.

I hope that this review has given you a few topics to think about and to review with your health care provider at your next office visit.  Each person’s health status is individual to them, so take some time to make a list on one of your new notepads:  #1 My Health. You deserve to be #1.


‘Tis the Season…Cold and Flu Season

By Eileen B. Wyner, NP
Bulfinch Medical Group

cough syrupWell, it is that time of year again.  And no, I am not talking about free shipping at or buy 1 get 1 free sales, but the less glamorous, always annual COLD AND FLU SEASON! All of us are vulnerable and need to take care of ourselves, but any illness can present a bigger challenge for those living with Diabetes. Each year there are many reports of serious complications from the flu, so it is important to be aware of the illnesses and the subtle differences between them.

Let’s start by understanding what cold and flu illnesses are and what makes them different from each other. Both are viral respiratory illnesses caused by two different viruses. Sometimes it is hard to tell which illness you have, so here are a few key points to be aware of.  A cold usually comes on gradually with symptoms such as a stuffy nose, sneezing, and sore throat.  It is unusual to have fever with a cold but you may have a hacking cough.  The flu is characterized by an abrupt onset of fever that may be as high as 101-103º, along with chills, significant body aches, and a dry cough.  The severity of flulike symptoms is usually so overwhelming it’s necessary to suspend your regular life until you feel better.

Treating these illnesses can be challenging because there is no magic cure. Since both are caused by a virus, antibiotics are not helpful (antibiotics are just indicated when there is a bacterial infection). It is important to treat your symptoms so you will feel more comfortable. Some measures you can take include drinking plenty of fluids, taking medicines to relieve your fever, achiness, and nasal congestion, and to get lots of rest. You should call your health care provider with any questions or concerns, especially if you have a lingering high fever or cough or if your symptoms continue for longer than 5 days without any improvement.

Any illness can make it difficult to keep your blood sugar values well controlled.  You may need to check your blood sugar more often than usual, and have a harder time keeping at goal. You may need to make adjustments in your diet and medications. You should always check with your health care provider or certified Diabetes educator to have an individual program for illness.

I wish all of you a holiday season of health and happiness, free of cold and flu!