Well folks, it’s that time of year again: cold and flu season.
On Thursday, Nov. 5, Maryland officials confirmed the first case of the flu in the Baltimore area.
The patient is an adult and was not hospitalized, according to WBAL News 11. The individual had the type A flu strain (H1N1), which was included in this year’s flu vaccination formula.
This year’s initial diagnosis came a month later than last year, when the first flu case was diagnosed on Oct. 9. Last year’s influenza strain was very severe — leading to 3,700 hospitalizations in Maryland — but health officials are saying that it’s too early to tell if this year’s flu season will be the same.
Last year’s flu strain was predominantly H3N2, which is believed to be a more severe type of influenza. Researchers reportedly focused on the H3N2 strain when creating the 2015-2016 flu vaccine. If the predominant strain is H1N1 this year, health officials warn that the vaccine may be less effective than planned.
Nevertheless, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is still urging adults and children to get vaccinated if they have not already done so. Montgomery County Media has reported that the nasal spray vaccine, FluMist (manufactured by MedImmune) is delayed; however, flu shots are still widely available throughout the state.
Vaccines are recommended for adults and children older than six months; health officials strongly encourage vaccinations for children, adults over 50, pregnant women, anyone with a medical condition that may weaken the immune system, and anyone who cares for individuals who are most likely to be affected by the flu.
Updated vaccinations are released every year around the end of August and it is essential to receive a new vaccine each year, as the virus is comprised of many strains which can mutate and change from year to year.
If you think you may have the flu, health experts recommend the following tips:
- Visit your family physician or urgent care center to determine if you have the influenza virus.
- Make sure to cover your mouth and nose when sneezing, to wash your hands frequently with soap and hot water, and to dispose of soiled tissues immediately.
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizers may be used in lieu of soap and water if necessary.
- Avoid going into busy public spaces, such as the office or school.
- If you believe you have a cold, try to avoid spending too much time in public spaces where the influenza virus may be present (such as hospitals or doctors’ offices); your immune system will be more vulnerable to the virus if it’s already weakened
- Make sure to eat healthy foods — no junk food allowed! Health experts recommend to eat 1.5-2 servings of fruit and 2-2.5 cups of veggies daily even when you’re feeling healthy, but don’t be afraid to have a few extra bites of a nutrient-rich food.
- Most importantly, stay hydrated and rested! Drink plenty of water and make sure to get at least six hours of sleep every night.
For more information and weekly updates on the influenza virus in Maryland, visit http://dhmh.maryland.gov/fluwatch.