Flu season has arrived in Maryland. There have been 11 cases of flu in the state since the beginning of September, the Maryland Department of Health reported this week.
Influenza, also known as flu, is a contagious respiratory disease that can cause fever, body aches, sore throat, coughing and fatigue about one to four days after exposure. The disease spreads through coughing or sneezing, from person to person and touching contaminated objects.
It can be deadly: In 2018, there were 82 flu-related deaths reported to Maryland health officials. Four were younger than 18.
Flu season generally picks up in October and November, peaks between December and February and can continue as late as May, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We don’t know yet whether flu activity this early indicates a particularly bad season on the horizon,” Maryland Department of Health Secretary Robert R. Neall said in a statement.
“Still, we can’t emphasize strongly enough – get your flu shot now. Don’t put it off,” Neall said. “The vaccine is widely available at grocery stores, pharmacies and local health clinics, in addition to your doctor’s office.”
Children younger than 5 and adults older than 65 are at the greatest risk, along with pregnant women and those who have compromised immune systems.
Nearly 3,300 people were hospitalized because of the flu last year in Maryland, according to state health officials.
“The best way to protect yourself and your family is to get a flu shot,” Maryland Deputy Secretary for Public Health Fran Phillips said in a statement. “Keep in mind that it takes about two weeks after being vaccinated before the body’s full immune response kicks in.”
So far this year, most cases are influenza A (H3N2), while a few have been influenza B, according to officials, who say the vaccine protects against both.
“Getting vaccinated every year is important because the strains change over time,” Phillips said.
For those who do get the flu, the vaccine can make it less severe.
This tool allows readers to find available flu shots by zip code.
To see the story by Elizabeth Janney as it originally appeared on Patch.com, click here.
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