WASHINGTON (WUSA9)-- Maryland's first case of influenza was reported yesterday, officially signaling the start of the Flu Season.
According to health officials, a child from the Washington suburbs was hospitalized with type A H1N1 and has since been released.
Compared to last year, the flu has arrived early to the DMV. In 2012, the first case was recorded on Oct. 19, says Maryland's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH).
This first report was released in the shadows of the government shutdown that furloughed the influenza trackers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC keeps record of the number of flu cases, strain type, visits to the doctor, hospitalizations and deaths.
Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, Secretary of DHMH, highlighted that getting vaccinated is crucial "to protect ourselves and those around us," and that although the flu can "be serious... it can also be prevented."
It is suggested that all people above 6 months of age get vaccinated each flu season. "Vaccine is available throughout Maryland, and we encourage everyone to get vaccinated now to avoid missing work and school this season," according to Dr. Laura Herrera, DHMH Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services.
To get the vaccine, contact your local health department, pharmacy or healthcare provider. Or, check out this HealthMap Vaccine Finder, and enter in your neighborhood to find a spot offering flu shots.
At the top of the list to receive vaccination are children 6 months to 18 years of age, anyone over age 50, women who are pregnant, anyone who has a chronic medical condition and those with weakened immune systems. These are people who are most at-risk for developing complications with the virus.
The influenza virus is spread by contact from person to person, especially through sneezing and coughing. It is also contracted by touching contaminated objects and surfaces. If you've picked up the virus, chances are symptoms will begin after about one to four days. The most common symptoms are body aches, fever, fatigue, cough and sore throat.