Both Health and Mental Hygiene Secretary Van T. Mitchell and Deputy Secretary Haft received their flu shots today at the Charles County Health Department. “We promote awareness of a number of different viruses throughout the year,” said Mitchell. “It’s important for Marylanders to remember that the flu is extremely easy to catch and that it still can cause death.”
Influenza is a contagious respiratory disease that may lead to serious complications, hospitalization or even death. 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. Common symptoms include fever, body aches, fatigue, coughing, and sore throat. Symptoms usually begin one to four days after being exposed to the virus.
The influenza vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and your family from becoming ill with influenza. Yearly vaccinations are important because the strains of influenza that circulate change over time. Influenza vaccine is recommended for everyone over the age of 6 months. It is especially important for people who are at high risk for influenza-related complications and severe disease including:
- Children younger than 5 years old,
- People 65 and older,
- Pregnant women,
- Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities,
- American Indians and Alaskan Natives,
- People of any age with chronic medical conditions, and
- People undergoing therapy or with a condition that may weaken their immune systems.
- People caring for someone in these groups should be vaccinated to avoid spreading the disease to them. These include health workers and household contacts of people at risk for complications from the flu.
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. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that the FluMist nasal spray vaccine not be used for the 2016-2017 influenza season, because of concerns about that form of vaccine’s effectiveness against certain strains of influenza. Flu shots, however, are still recommended and widely available.
This year's influenza vaccine formulation includes the A (H1N1) strain. The flu strain factoring in the season’s first case in Maryland was type A (H1N1); the patient was not hospitalized. Last season, the first confirmed case of influenza was reported on November 4, 2015.
If you believe you are ill with influenza:
- Contact your healthcare provider for management of flu symptoms or treatment of any complications.
- Get rest and drink plenty of fluids.
- Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing.
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers and wash your hands often.
- Avoid crowded places like shopping malls or public transportation.
- Avoid unnecessary visits to hospitals or other settings where people with other conditions may get your flu and be affected severely.
- Stay home from work or school whenever possible to avoid spreading the flu to your friends and coworkers.
Stay up-to-date on influenza activity in Maryland by visiting http://dhmh.maryland.gov/fluwatch for weekly updates.
Maryland has an established Internet-based Maryland Resident Influenza Tracking Survey (MRITS). This tool is designed to enhance the state’s existing influenza surveillance by monitoring influenza-like illnesses among residents who might not seek medical care. Please volunteer! Sign up via the Internet at http://flusurvey.dhmh.maryland.gov/home.aspx to receive online surveys where you can report any flu-like symptoms each week.
For more information about the seriousness of influenza and the benefits of vaccination, visit https://goo.gl/k2u55f, http://www.cdc.gov/flu/ orhttp://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/index.htm, or call CDC at 1-800-CDC-INFO.