Flu Season is Here!
Flu season is here and the number of cases throughout Maryland and the United States is increasing. Influenza is a serious disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), influenza contributes to more than 200,000 hospitalizations a year, and thousands of deaths per year.
This is our earliest regular flu season since the 2003-2004 flu season. And while flu is always unpredictable, the early nature of the cases, as well as the specific strains we're seeing so far, may suggest that this could be a bad flu year.
But you can protect yourself and your family from the flu. The most important step you can take is to GET VACCINATED! The vaccine this year is a very good match to the strains that are currently circulating throughout Maryland and the United States. If you have not already received a flu shot, it’s not too late. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop and provide protection against the flu. Health officials recommend that everyone who is at least 6 months of age get a flu vaccine this season. It’s especially important for some people to get vaccinated. Those people include:
People who are at high risk of developing serious complications like pneumonia if they get sick with the flu.
People who have certain medical conditions, including asthma, diabetes, compromised immune systems, and chronic lung disease
People 65 years and older
Children younger than 5 years, but especially children under 2
People who live with or care for others who are high risk of developing serious complications.
Flu vaccines are offered in many locations, including doctor’s offices, clinics, health departments, pharmacies and college health centers, as well as by many employers, and even in some schools. Even if you don’t have a regular doctor or nurse, you can get a flu vaccine somewhere else, like a health department, pharmacy, urgent care clinic, and often your school, college health center, or work.
Next to the flu vaccine, washing your hands often is the best way to prevent the transmission of the flu from touching contaminated surfaces. If you do get the flu, stay home from school or work to avoid spreading it to others.
And you can help us track flu. The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene conducts year-round influenza surveillance through a network of physicians, clinical laboratories, emergency departments, and hospitals. Even Maryland residents can help in this effort through a simple, one-minute online survey every week. This helps us know where the flu is active and how intensely it is hitting Maryland residents.
Get your flu vaccine, wash your hands, and have a flu-free winter!