State Health Officials Confirm First Seasonal Flu Cases

Four children from the Baltimore metropolitan area are the first recorded flu cases for 2012.

Four Baltimore-area children are the first confirmed cases of seasonal influenza, according to state health officials.

The four children, who are not being identified, are said to be doing well though one was hospitalized, according to a statement released Friday by the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The first confirmed case in 2011 was reported on December 30, health officials said.

"Flu is here earlier this year than last year, and we are seeing two different flu strains,” Frances Phillips, deputy secretary of Public Health Services, said in the statement. “This really stresses the importance of getting the flu vaccine, and getting it as soon as possible. Fortunately, there is plenty of vaccine to go around.”

Free vaccinations for the flu and pneumonia are available at two walk-in clinics in Anne Arundel County.

The Glen Burnie Heath Center offers the shots on Tuesdays and Fridays, 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. The Parole Health Center offers shots on Mondays and Wednesdays, 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

"Flu season usually peaks in January and February," said Elin Jones, spokesperson for the Anne Arundel County Department of Health. Even though the first reported cases in 2011 didn't come until December, she said people often don't know they have the influenza virus, so cases can exist before they're reported.

"Sometimes people will have the flu, but they don't actually go to the doctor," Jones said.

Influenza spreads from person to person through coughing or sneezing and direct contact with infected people and contaminated surfaces or objects. Symptoms usually begin one to four days after being exposed to the virus, and include fever, body aches, fatigue, coughing, and sore throat, according to state health officials, according to the release.

Yearly vaccinations are important because the strains of influenza that circulate change over time.

State health officials recommend the following people be vaccinated: 

  • Children 6 months to 18 years of age.
  • Persons 50 years of age and older.
  • Pregnant women.
  • Persons of any age with chronic medical conditions.
  • Persons undergoing therapy, or with a condition that may weaken their immune systems.
  • Persons caring for someone in these groups should also be vaccinated to avoid spreading the disease to them including health care workers, household contacts of individuals at risk for complications from the flu, and daycare or school workers. 

The heatlh department release offered the following tips to people who believe they have the flu.

  • Contact your health care provider for management of flu symptoms or treatment of any complications.
  • Get rest and drink plenty of fluids.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers and wash your hands often.
  • Avoid crowded places like shopping malls or public transportation.

State health officials also urge people to "avoid unnecessary visits to hospitals or other settings where people with other conditions may get your flu and be affected severely. Stay home from work or school whenever possible to avoid spreading the flu to your friends and coworkers."

Weekly updates on influenza activity in the state can be found on the state health department website.

The state has also set-up an internet-based influenza tracking survey to monitor influenza-like illnesses in people "who may not seek medical care," according to the release.

Residents can participate in the influenza survey by signing up on the department website.

Glen Burnie Patch local editor Brian Hooks contributed to this report.

Natalie BP October 20, 2012 at 11:55 AM
Avoiding stores cannot be done at times. But I feel it's the duty of store owners and management to also have a clue and help out being proactive to HELP their consumers & employees that are shopping in their stores by 1. Providing cool air- fans in the warmer areas like busy dressing room areas... 2. Providing Hand Sanitizer at registers with all the money & cr cdrds exchanging hands! 3. Listening to the customer and not making defensive excuses. Take this serious! Sams Club sells huge bottles of hand sanitizer to keep at registers. Participate Employers ~ we spend our money in your stores.


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