From Staff Reports
CUMBERLAND — The Allegany County Health Department is encouraging all area residents older than 6 months to get vaccinated against the flu.
A flu vaccination clinic is scheduled Thursday from noon to 6 p.m. at the Allegany County Fairgrounds Multipurpose Building.
The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene announced Friday the first laboratory-confirmed cases of seasonal influenza in four children in the Baltimore area. One of the four was hospitalized. 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 Dec. 30.
“Flu is here earlier this year than last year, and we are seeing two different flu strains,” said Frances Phillips, 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.”
Flu activity is low and plenty of vaccine is available in Allegany County, said Carole Kenny, director of physical health/nursing services at the health department.
The vaccine is being offered to health care workers in the region. The vaccine is mandatory at the Western Maryland Regional Medical Center, and 85 percent of other health care workers have recently received the vaccine, Kenny said.
Each year influenza results in the hospitalization of about 200,000 people in the U.S., and more than 36,000 people nationwide die from influenza-related complications, according to the local health department. The flu shot effectively prevents most cases of the flu and is recommended for anyone who wants to reduce the likelihood of influenza illness or to prevent the spread of the flu to others.
Flu protection is particularly important for children, pregnant women, those who are immune-compromised or have any type of long-term illness, those older than age 50, health care providers and anyone working or living with people at high risk for influenza complications.
“In addition to practicing frequent hand-washing and covering coughs and sneezes, an annual flu vaccination is critical to protecting yourself and your loved ones from serious complications from the flu,” said Dr. Sue Raver, health officer for Allegany County. “Pneumonia is one of the most common complications, but underlying health issues can also contribute to serious problems in recuperating from influenza.”
The cost this year is $30 for the regular flu vaccine, $46 for high-dose for those 65 and older and $72 for pneumococcal vaccine. The health department can bill Medicare and Maryland Physicians Care. For all other insurance plans, a receipt can be provided to seek reimbursement from the insurance provider.
Flu vaccines are available at the health department on a walk-in basis Wednesdays from 1 to 4 p.m. For more information, call 301-759-5082 or go to www.alleganyhealth-dept.com.