First Case Of Seasonal Flu Reported In Maryland

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Seasonal influenza has officially hit in Maryland, according to Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) officials. The first laboratory-confirmed case of Type A (H1) seasonal influenza has been diagnosed in a child in the Baltimore Metropolitan Region. Last season, the first confirmed case was reported on December 6, 2007.

"Seasonal flu is here in Maryland and I encourage everyone who has not already been vaccinated this season to contact their physician or health care provider to make arrangements to get immunized against this illness that affects thousands of people every year," said DHMH Secretary John M. Colmers. "It is not too late to get the vaccine and supplies are plentiful."

The seasonal flu is highly contagious. It spreads from person to person as a result of coughing or sneezing. It is also spread by direct contact with infected people, and contaminated surfaces or objects. Flu symptoms usually begin one to four days after being exposed to the flu virus. Flu symptoms include fever, body aches, fatigue, coughing, and sore throat.

Yearly vaccinations are important because the strains of influenza that circulate change over time. This season's vaccine is aimed at three strains which have recently been in wide circulation: Type A Brisbane (H1N1), Type A Brisbane (H3N2), and Type B Florida. Plenty of vaccine is available in Maryland by contacting your health care provider or local health department.

Flu vaccine is recommended for persons at high risk for influenza-related complications and severe disease, including:

* Children of 6 months to 18 years of age;
* Persons 50 years of age and older;
* Pregnant women;
* Persons of any age with chronic medical conditions; and
* Persons undergoing therapy, or with a condition, that may weaken their immune systems.

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Persons caring for someone in these groups should also be vaccinated to avoid spreading the disease. These persons include healthcare workers, household contacts of individuals at risk for complications from the flu, and daycare/school workers.

Ways to decrease your chances of getting the flu are:

* Get your flu vaccine.
* Avoid prolonged contact with individuals showing possible symptoms of the flu.
* Maintain a healthy lifestyle to build your immune system.
* Eat balanced meals, including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables; drink lots of water.
* Get plenty of rest.
* Wash hands frequently.

If you believe you are ill with the flu:

* Contact your health care 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.

Help us track influenza in Maryland:

This year, Maryland has implemented an Internet-based Maryland Resident Influenza Tracking Survey, a first in the nation. This tool is designed to enhance the State's existing influenza surveillance by monitoring influenza-like illnesses among residents who may not seek medical care. Those who choose to volunteer may sign up via the Internet to receive weekly on-line surveys where they can report any flu-like symptoms for the previous week.

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