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DHMH Press Releases : flu on the rise

FLU ON THE RISE ACROSS MARYLAND

 

It's not too late to get vaccinated, the best protection against the flu

Department of Health & Mental Hygiene News Release

Baltimore, MD (January 13, 2011) – Consistent with historic trends for the seasonal spread of the flu virus among the population, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s (DHMH) flu monitoring and surveillance systems report a dramatic rise in the number of flu cases across Maryland over the last two weeks. The DHMH Maryland Flu Tracking System (Marylandfluwatch.org) reports increased influenza activity and geographic spread from “local” to “widespread” since the last week of December, 2010. There is also a marked increase in the number of flu-related emergency room visits and hospitalizations according to Maryland’s Electronic Surveillance System for the Early Notification of Community-based Epidemics (ESSENCE) bio-surveillance system.

“The flu is here as expected but the good news is, it’s not too late to get vaccinated,” said Frances Phillips, Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services. “For those who get sick, there is nothing pleasant about the flu. With illness occurring in communities throughout Maryland, now is the time for anyone not yet vaccinated to do so. We will protect ourselves as well as others who may be at risk for more serious flu symptoms."

Absent an unusual influenza event such as the H1N1 pandemic, the number of people who become sick with flu and flu-related illness typically begins to rise in early January. If the 2010-2011 flu season continues as expected, the number of people who get sick, require hospitalization or die will continue to increase to a peak in late February.

“Check with your health care provider, pharmacy or local health department and get vaccinated as soon as possible, added Deputy Secretary Phillips. “Remember, the vaccine is the best form of protection but it takes some time to provide immunity. In general, we can protect ourselves by frequent hand-washing, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home from work or school when sick."

The current seasonal flu vaccine will protect you against the three most common strains of the virus detected in the United States so far this season, including H1N1. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone above the age of 6 months get vaccinated.

According to the CDC, people at a higher risk of serious health consequences from the flu virus are:Children less than 5 years old

  • Persons aged 65 years or older
  • Pregnant women
  • Residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities
  • Adults and children who have chronic pulmonary, cardiovascular, hepatic, hematological, neurologic, neuromuscular, or metabolic disorders
  • Adults and children who have immunosuppression (including immunosuppression caused by medications or by HIV)
  • Children and adolescents (less than 19 years) who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy and who might be at risk for experiencing Reye syndrome after influenza virus infection

 

      The best protection against the flu virus is vaccination and practicing good personal hygiene:
  • Wash your hands often, especially after coughing, sneezing, and wiping or blowing your nose
  • If you have flu symptoms, stay home and avoid contact with other people to protect them from catching your illness.
  • Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing
  • Use paper tissues when wiping or blowing your nose; throw tissues away after use
  • Stay away from crowded living and sleeping spaces, if possible

To find out more about seasonal flu visit:

DHMH Flu website (http://spdev.dhmh.md.gov:21115/flumd/SitePages/Home.aspx)
Get Vaccinated (http://www.dhmh.md.gov/flumd/getvaccinated.html>(http://www.dhmh.md.gov/flumd/getvaccinated.html) to check with your Local Health Department about vaccine availability in your area.
www.cdc.gov or Seasonal Flu Vaccine or call the CDC at 1-800-CDC-INFO for more information about the seriousness of influenza and the benefits of vaccination.