WASHINGTON — The fresh autumn chill brings sniffles, coughs and worse: Flu season is at hand, and the first cases are already being reported around the region.
The Maryland Department of Health confirmed its first seasonal flu cases on Tuesday: One adult and one child contracted it in the Central and Eastern Shore areas as of Oct. 6. The confirmed strains were Type A (H1) and Type B (Victoria).
In D.C., five cases were reported — all Type A.
But in Virginia, there were no confirmed flu cases as of Oct. 6.
Now is the time to get that flu shot.
“You can get vaccinated anytime, but we’re strongly recommending that you get vaccinated before Oct. 31,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “It’s difficult to predict how bad (a flu season) is going to be, but we need to be prepared for the worst.”
The flu shot is widely available at neighborhood pharmacies, your local health department and other health care providers. Experts recommend it for everyone over the age of 6 months, and they strongly recommend it for people vulnerable to severe complications from the highly contagious respiratory disease, such as:
- Children younger than 5 — and especially those younger than 2
- People 65 and older
- Pregnant women (and women up to two weeks postpartum)
- Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- American Indians and Alaska natives
- People with chronic medical conditions
- People undergoing therapy, or who have a condition that can weaken immunity
- People caring for someone in these vulnerable groups
Common symptoms of influenza include fever, body aches, coughing, fatigue and a sore throat, and they usually show up within four days of exposure. If you think you’ve contracted it:
- See your health care provider
- Get rest and plenty of fluids
- Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers and wash your hands frequently
- Avoid crowded areas
- Avoid unnecessary visits to the hospital
- Stay home from work or school
Learn more about getting vaccinated and about the flu’s spread this season from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Another good online resource for tracking the flu this year is Flu Near You, which displays crowdsourced data in an interactive map.
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