For the Cumberland Times-News
BALTIMORE — Seasonal influenza has officially arrived in Maryland, with the first laboratory-confirmed case identified in a child from the National Capital Region, who was briefly hospitalized and is now recovering, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene announced.
The flu strain detected was type A (H1N1) influenza. Last season, the first case of influenza was reported on Oct. 19.
“Maryland’s first confirmed seasonal flu case reminds us of the importance of getting vaccinated to protect ourselves and those around us,” said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, DHMH secretary. “Influenza infection can be serious, but it can also be prevented.”
The influenza vaccine protects against both influenza A and B strains, including the H1N1 strain. The vaccine is widely available, and Maryland residents are urged to get protected now by contacting their health care provider, local health department or neighborhood pharmacy.
“We recommend that everyone above the age of 6 months get the seasonal flu vaccine,” said Dr. Laura Herrera, DHMH deputy secretary for Public Health Services.
The virus that causes influenza spreads from person to person through coughing or sneezing, as well as through direct contact with infected people and contaminated surfaces or objects. Symptoms usually begin one to four days after being exposed to the virus, and include fever, cough, sore throat, fatigue and body aches.
Influenza vaccine is especially important for individuals who are at high risk for influenza-related complications and severe disease, including:
• Children 6 months to 18 years of age.
• Those 50 years of age and older.
• Pregnant women.
• People of any age with chronic medical conditions.
• Those with weakened immune systems.
Stay up-to-date on influenza activity in Maryland by visiting http://dhmh.maryland.gov/fluwatch for weekly updates.