BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Fierce flu. The illness is spreading fast across the nation. Health workers across the country and in Maryland say the number of cases have reached an epidemic level.

Now health workers in our area scrambling to open free flu clinics.

Gigi Barnett has more.

Doctors said the flu season lasts about four to five months and the nation is only about halfway through it. This year’s flu season started early and it hit hard.

Emergency rooms filled up fast. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said the number of flu deaths across the country is slightly higher than epidemic levels.

“A lot of patients are complaining of fevers, body aches, cough, congestion. Some people have a little bit of vomiting and diarrhea,” said Dr. Jonathan Hansen of MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center.

“I never had a flu shot, but now I understand why you need to get a flu shot now,” said flu patient Sandra Lee.

That’s causing health workers in Anne Arundel, Howard, Harford  and Baltimore to open free flu clinics.

Health workers said this is not the year to skip the shot.

“I never had a flu shot, but now I understand why you need to get a flu shot,” said one resident.

The good news is it’s not too late to get the shot.

David Blythe tracks epidemics at the State Department of Health.

He said this year’s vaccine is a good match with the virus, meaning it’s highly effective. But many healthcare providers are running out of it.

And the season isn’t over yet.

“We hope we’re at the peak and things will be dropping off soon. But we just don’t know yet. We’re going to keep watching,” said Hansen.

Doctors said even after the flu season peaks, there may still be a lot of flu activity. Meanwhile, severe cases can lead to death. The CDC said about 24,000 people die from the flu every year.

The CDC said the number of states reporting large flu cases increased from 41 to 43 last week, but the hardest-hit states are just now starting to see a decline in patients.


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