BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s officially flu season- and Marylanders are already seeing it spread.
11 cases have been confirmed since September 1, a majority of them subtyped as influenza A with a few classified as influenza B, the Maryland Department of Health said Tuesday.
“11 cases is just the tip of the iceberg,” MinuteClinic Nurse Practioner Darcy McCartney said. “So we’re just getting started now. Once we start seeing seasonal influenza in the community, it starts to be contagious and we see very high numbers ramp up from here.”
Most of the cases have been Influenza A which can spread from animals to humans. There have also been a few cases of Influenza B which is only contagious among people.
This year’s vaccine protects against both. It does, however, take time to become effective.
Officials encouraged people 6 months and over to get vaccinated.
“We don’t know yet whether flu activity this early indicates a particularly bad season on the horizon,” said MDH Secretary Robert R. Neall. “Still, we can’t emphasize strongly enough – get your flu shot now. Don’t put it off. The vaccine is widely available at grocery stores, pharmacies and local health clinics, in addition to your doctor’s office.”
Who should get vaccinated?
Although most influenza cases are mild and people recover usually with little to no complications, it can be serious for children younger than five years old, adults older than 65, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems.
How many people were infected last year? Is this a big deal?
Last during flu season, there were 3,274 influenza-associated hospitalizations and 82 influenza-associated deaths were reported to the MDH, including four deaths of people under 18.
The flu virus can spread through coughing or sneezing, as well as coming into contact with infected people or contaminated surfaces or objects.
Common symptoms include fever, body aches, fatigue, coughing and sore throat, usually showing up one to four days after someone is exposed.
“The best way to protect yourself and your family is to get a flu shot. Getting vaccinated every year is important because the strains change over time,” said Deputy Secretary for Public Health Fran Phillips. “Also, keep in mind that it takes about two weeks after being vaccinated before the body’s full immune response kicks in.”
What happens if I think I have the flu?
Call your health care provider to help manage symptoms and complications right away. The usual care includes getting plenty of rest and drinking fluids.
Don’t try to tough it out. MDH says to stay home from work or school to avoid spreading the flu, and covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough.
They added to use alcohol-based hand sanitizers and wash your hands often.
Stay up-to-date on influenza activity in Maryland by visiting https://phpa.health.maryland.gov/influenza/fluwatch/.