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Health Officials: Forget Ebola; Worry About The Flu

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Ebola threat continues to be a real concern overseas–with 932 deaths and more than a thousand infected. But health officials say the flu is a much bigger threat to people here in Maryland.

Mary Bubala reports it should be on everyone’s radar as we head into fall.

Flu season is months away, but this is the time to start thinking about it, according to city and state health officials.

“A lot of people think it’s not a serious disease and it’s really very serious. Thousands of people die every year because of the flu,” said Tiffany Tate, Maryland Prevention.

With the Ebola outbreak dominating the news, Maryland health officials are trying to re-direct attention to the flu: an actual direct threat to people living in Maryland.

“We have tens of thousands of deaths from flu every year in the United States. Imagine the amount of attention that’s been spent on the Ebola virus in the news compared to the amount that’s spent on flu,” said Md. Secretary of Health Dr. Joshua Sharfstein.

Health officials are urging people to get the flu shot this fall, reminding us that influenza is easily transmitted by air–unlike the Ebola virus.

“If people want to do something to protect themselves after they hear a scary story about Ebola, they should figure out how they are going to get the flu vaccine,” said Sharfstein. “That will do a lot more to protect them this year because flu is going to be in Baltimore. It is going to be in Maryland.”

Each year, up to 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu. More than 200,000 are hospitalized.

The flu season peaks in January or February, but can begin as early as October.

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