BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A warning to Marylanders: Flu season has arrived. The first case of H1N1 has been reported in our state. Health officials are urging people to get their flu shots now.

Meghan McCorkell has more on what doctors are expecting this season.

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Last year, the flu outbreak was declared an epidemic in Maryland. Now health officials are hoping to avoid another rough season.

The first flu case of the year is now reported in Maryland. Health officials say a child living in the D.C. suburbs was briefly hospitalized with the H1N1 virus. It’s the same strain of flu that killed Tamara Leak-Jones’ son, Jaylin, in 2009.

“I would never have imagined that something as simple as the flu would have taken my son away from me,” she said.

The flu reached epidemic levels in Maryland last season, with more than 5,600 laboratory confirmed cases and more than 3,000 patients hospitalized.

Last year at Sinai Hospital, the emergency room was overrun with flu cases.

“Last year was just out of control. I mean, the amount of people we saw that had the flu, we weren’t even screening for the flu. Just coming in with the symptoms, we knew they had the flu and we treated them as such,” said Dr. Dov Frankel, Sinai Hospital.

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Frankel says he hopes the unseasonably warm weather helps keep people out of the ER this year.

“With the weather change and hopefully getting the vaccine right this year, then hopefully we’ll be able to bypass that,” he said.

Many local counties are now offering free flu shot clinics, and people are taking advantage.

“People getting sick and actually dying from it. So it’s very important to take care of yourself so you don’t spread it to others too,” said Tamika Fletcher.

Baltimore County will offer free flu shots on Saturday at seven area clinics. The vaccine will be available on a first come, first serve basis.

Flu season is expected to peak in both January and February.

Last year, the first flu case in Maryland was reported on Oct. 19.

Saturday’s free clinics will be open from 10 a.m. til 2 p.m. For a complete list of locations, click here.

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