BALTIMORE, MD (October 19, 2012) - Seasonal influenza has officially hit in Maryland, with four confirmed cases, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) announced today. The first laboratory-confirmed cases of seasonal influenza have been diagnosed in four children in the Baltimore Metropolitan Region. One of the four was hospitalized, and all four are doing well. Three of the children had type A (H3N2) influenza, while one had type B influenza. Last season, the first confirmed case of influenza was reported on December 30, 2011.
· Persons 50 years of age and older;
"Flu is here earlier this year than last year, and we are seeing two different flu strains,” said Frances Phillips, DHMH Deputy Secretary of Public Health Services. “This really stresses the importance of getting the flu vaccine, and getting it as soon as possible. Fortunately, there is plenty of vaccine to go around.”
The virus that causes influenza spreads from person to person through coughing or sneezing, as well as through direct contact with infected people and contaminated surfaces or objects. Symptoms usually begin one to four days after being exposed to the virus, and include fever, body aches, fatigue, coughing, and sore throat.
Yearly vaccinations are important because the strains of influenza that circulate change over time. This season’s vaccine is aimed at three strains that are expected to be most prevalent this season: Type A /California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus, Type A/Victoria/361/2011 (H3N2)-like virus, and Type B/Wisconsin/1/2010-like virus.
Influenza vaccine is recommended for everyone over the age of six months. It is especially important for individuals who are at high risk for influenza-related complications and severe disease, including:
· Children 6 months to 18 years of age;
· Pregnant women;
· Persons of any age with chronic medical conditions; and
· Persons undergoing therapy, or with a condition that may weaken their immune systems.
Persons caring for someone in these groups should also be vaccinated to avoid spreading the disease to them. These persons include healthcare workers, household contacts of individuals at risk for complications from the flu, and daycare or school workers.
Contact your healthcare provider, local health department, or neighborhood pharmacy to get vaccinated.
If you believe you are ill with influenza:
· Contact your healthcare provider for management of flu symptoms or treatment of any complications.
· Get rest and drink plenty of fluids.
· Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing.
· Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers and wash your hands often.
· Avoid crowded places like shopping malls or public transportation.
Avoid unnecessary visits to hospitals or other settings where people with other conditions may get your flu and be affected severely. Stay home from work or school whenever possible to avoid spreading the flu to your friends and coworkers.
Stay up-to-date on influenza activity in Maryland by visiting http://dhmh.maryland.gov/fluwatch for weekly updates.
Maryland has an established Internet-based Maryland Resident Influenza Tracking Survey. This tool is designed to enhance the state’s existing influenza surveillance by monitoring influenza-like illnesses among residents who may not seek medical care. Please volunteer! Sign up via the Internet at http://flusurvey.dhmh.md.gov/ to receive on-line surveys where you can report any flu-like symptoms each week.