Seasonal influenza finally arrived in Maryland this week, more than two months later than flu cases began appearing last year, state health officials announced Friday.
The first case, found in an adult living facility near Baltimore, was confirmed in lab tests Thursday. The first confirmed case of flu last year came on Oct. 14. A person infected with the flu usually begins feeling symptoms within four days of exposure to the virus.
Frances Phillips, the state health department’s deputy secretary for public health, urged people who have not gotten a flu vaccine to do so now. “Now is the time to protect yourself, family and community,” she said in a statement.
This season’s vaccine protects against three flu strains scientists believe will be the most common, including the H1N1 “swine flu” strain. Plenty of doses remain at locations throughout the state, officials said, including local health departments, doctors’ offices and pharmacies.
Though the health department recommends that everyone over the age of six months get the vaccine, it is especially important for people in high-risk groups. Those include people younger than 18 and those older than 50, pregnant women, and people who have chronic ailments or conditions that weaken the immune system. Anyone in close contact with a high-risk person also should be vaccinated.