BALTIMORE, MD—The Maryland Department of Health on Tuesday launched a statewide multimedia campaign, “Fight the Flu,” on television and social media. The campaign encourages all Marylanders to get their flu shots as soon as possible.
“Getting vaccinated for the flu every year is important, but this year it’s critical,” said MDH Secretary Robert R. Neall. “Make sure you make time to get your flu shot — it’s a simple, safe and effective way to help protect yourself, your loved ones and the most vulnerable in your community from the flu.”
Although most influenza cases are mild and people recover with few to no complications, influenza can pose a serious risk for children younger than 5 years, adults older than 65 years, pregnant women and individuals with compromised immune systems. During last flu season, Maryland health care providers reported to MDH nearly 4,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations and 82 influenza-associated deaths, including six deaths of individuals under the age of 18.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this winter reducing the spread of respiratory illnesses, like flu, is more important than ever because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts are concerned that the confluence of COVID-19 and flu could cause hospitals, essential workers and other resources to be overwhelmed if there is more expansive illness.
“Though we do not yet have a vaccine for COVID-19, the flu vaccine is widely available,” said MDH Acting Deputy Secretary of Public Health Dr. Jinlene Chan. “We urge families everywhere to talk to their health care provider, call the nearest pharmacy or go to Marylandvax.org to find a free public flu clinic nearest to them — get your flu shot today.”
The influenza virus spreads from person to person through coughing or sneezing, as well as through contact with infected people or contaminated surfaces and objects. Common symptoms include fever, body aches, fatigue, coughing and sore throat and usually begin one to four days after being exposed. Some symptoms of cold, flu and COVID-19 are similar, making it hard to tell the difference without diagnostic testing.
The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone six months of age and older, but it is especially important for individuals who are at high risk for influenza-related complications including:
- Children 6 months through 5 years old;
- People over 50 years old;
- Adults and children who have chronic pulmonary, cardiovascular, renal, hepatic, neurologic, hematologic, or metabolic disorders;
- People who are immunocompromised;
- Women who are or will become pregnant during the flu season;
- Children and adolescents who are receiving aspirin- or salicylate-containing medications and who might be at risk for Reye’s syndrome after influenza virus infection;
- Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities;
- People who are extremely obese (body mass index more than 40 for adults).
“Fight the Flu” will run through the fall and winter and includes television advertisements, digital/social media outreach, and educational materials for at-risk groups.
To find a free public flu shot clinic near you, visit marylandvax.org.