Maryland flu deaths: state records first influenza-associated pediatric death

Flu SeasonOn Tuesday, the Maryland Department of Health confirmed the first influenza-associated pediatric death in the state for this flu season.

Maryland public health officials say they have detected a marked increase in influenza activity since mid- to late-December and are warning the public to take measures to prevent influenza, including getting the flu vaccine.

The Department of Health detected its first laboratory-confirmed cases of seasonal influenza in November 2017. Currently, flu activity is categorized as high and widespread with the majority of increased activity due to influenza type A (H3N2), although type A H1N1 and B strains are also circulating throughout the state of Maryland. As is the case every season, officials say this year’s flu shot vaccine formulation has coverage of strains of both type A and B influenza.

“Influenza is an extremely serious, and sometimes deadly, disease, and this flu season has been proven to be particularly severe,” said Dr. Howard Haft, deputy secretary for Public Health Services. “We’re continuing to urge Marylanders to get their flu shots, stay home from work if they are sick, and practice other preventative measures to stop the spread of flu.”

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.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, clinicians should encourage all persons with influenza-like illness who are at high risk for influenza complications to seek care promptly to determine if treatment with influenza antiviral medications is warranted.

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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.

The CDC recommends that everyone older than 6 months get the flu vaccine. It is not too late to get vaccinated, and Maryland residents are urged to get protected now by contacting their health care provider, local health department, or neighborhood pharmacy to schedule an appointment.

The CDC recommends you take the following steps to help prevent catching the flu:

  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Practice other good health habits such as these:
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill.
    • Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food.

If you believe you are ill with influenza:

  • Contact your healthcare provider for management of flu symptoms or treatment of any complications. Call them if you have high fever, difficulty breathing, or other severe symptoms.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Get rest and drink plenty of fluids.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers and wash your hands often.
  • Stay home from work, school, running errands, and visiting friends or relatives when you are sick – especially those who are in hospitals or nursing homes. This will help prevent spreading your illness to others.

Stay up-to-date on influenza activity in Maryland by visiting the Maryland FluWatch page for weekly updates.

Health officials to provide free flu shots in Middle River this weekend

Flu ShotBaltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch, Director of Health and Human Services and “Sure Shot,” the Department of Health mascot, announced this week that Baltimore County would hold “Super Saturday” free flu vaccination clinics this weekend.

On Saturday, October 21, from 9 a.m. to noon, the department will hold public flu vaccination clinics at the following locations in each of the seven council districts:

  • Drumcastle Government Center
    6401 York Road, First Floor
    Baltimore, Maryland 21212
  • Dundalk Middle School
    7400 Dunmanway
    Baltimore, Maryland 21222
  • Hereford Middle School
    712 Corbett Road
    Monkton, Maryland 21111
  • Lansdowne Middle School
    2400 Lansdowne Road
    Baltimore, Maryland 21227
  • Randallstown Community Center
    3505 Resource Drive
    Randallstown, Maryland 21133
  • Middle River Middle School
    800 Middle River Road
    Middle River, Maryland 21220
  • Pikesville Middle School
    7701 Seven Mile Lane
    Pikesville, Maryland 21208

Free flu vaccinations will be available, while supplies last. Vaccines are given on a first come, first serve basis and no appointment is needed. Residents are asked to wear short-sleeve or sleeveless shirts for quick and easy access to the portion of their arm where the vaccination will be administered.

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“Nobody wants to catch the flu and flu vaccines are a great defense against this common, but potentially dangerous illness,” saidCounty Executive Kamenetz. “By having clinics located across the county, we are making it as easy and convenient as possible for people to get their free, annual flu shot on Saturday.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone six months of age and older get the flu vaccine – even if they were vaccinated last year – since immunity from vaccination declines over time and strains my change from year to year. The vaccine is safe, effective and readily available this season.

“I am urging all individuals six months and older to stay in the game and get a flu shot this year,” stated Dr. Branch. “As I remind residents every fall, the best defensive move against the flu is knowing the flu FACTS – Frequently wash your hands, Always get an annual flu shot, Cover your coughs, Take time off when you are sick, and Seek medical treatment if symptoms get worse.”

For more information on Super Saturday flu vaccination clinics, call 410-887-BCHD (2243) or visit www.baltimorecountymd.gov/flushot.

Zika virus prevention tips from Baltimore County

Zika Virus MosquitoAs the summer winds down, Baltimore County is offering helpful tips to residents to help prevent the spread of the Zika Virus.

The Zika virus is a mosquito-transmitted infection. Although it was discovered in the Zika forest in Uganda in 1947 and is common in Africa and Asia, it did not begin spreading widely in the Western Hemisphere until last May, when an outbreak occurred in Brazil.

Here are some helpful tips to prevent the virus’ spread.

  • Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and hats, when concerned about mosquitoes
  • Repair damaged window and door screens so mosquitoes do not come indoors
  • Always empty containers that hold water and remove trash to avoid creating mosquito breeding sites
  • Protect yourself and use an EPA-registered insect repellent according to package instructions
  • Use condoms or abstain from sexual activity if you are pregnant and your male partner has been in an area with Zika

For more prevention tips, head to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

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Zika Prevention Tips