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    ​DHMH Reminds Marylanders to Get Flu Shots; Health Secretary to hold Twitter chat about flu, other viruses at 1 p.m. Thursday

    Baltimore, MD (October 1, 2014) – Influenza season has begun. Though no influenza cases have been confirmed yet in Maryland, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) reminds all Maryland residents that now is the time to get vaccinated against the flu.
    September 28, 2014, marked the official beginning of the 2014-2015 influenza surveillance season for Maryland and for the rest of the United States. Influenza activity typically starts to increase in October. While it is expected that influenza activity will begin to increase in the coming weeks and months, it is important to remember that there are other respiratory viruses already circulating that might cause symptoms similar to those of influenza.
    “We know that Marylanders have been paying attention to respiratory viruses recently, including enterovirus D68,” said DHMH Secretary Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein. “One respiratory virus that leads to hospitalizations and deaths every year in Maryland is influenza. Protect yourself and your family and friends by getting vaccinated.”
    Sharfstein will be participating in a 30-minute Twitter chat on the Enterovirus D68, influenza and Ebola viruses, 1 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 2. Users should post or follow tweets with #MDHealthChat.
    Influenza is a contagious respiratory disease that may lead to serious complications, hospitalization or even death. The virus that causes influenza spreads from person to person through coughing or sneezing, as well as through direct contact with infected people and contaminated surfaces or objects. Common symptoms include fever, body aches, fatigue, coughing and sore throat. Symptoms usually begin one to four days after being exposed to the virus.
    The influenza vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and your family from becoming ill with influenza. The vaccine protects against both influenza A and B strains, including the H1N1 strain. It is important to get vaccinated at the beginning of every influenza season. The vaccine is widely available, and Maryland residents are urged to get protected now by contacting their health care provider, local health department or neighborhood pharmacy.
    Influenza vaccine is recommended for everyone older than six months. It is especially important for people at high risk for influenza-related complications and severe disease, including:
    •          Children 6 months to 5 years of age;
    •          People 65 and older;
    •          Pregnant women; and
    •          People of any age with certain acute or chronic medical conditions,  including weakened immune systems.

    Health care workers, household contacts of high-risk individuals, daycare/school workers, and others caring for anyone in these high-   risk groups should also be vaccinated to avoid spreading the disease.

     If you believe you are ill with influenza:
    •          Stay home from work and school whenever possible, to avoid spreading the flu to your friends and co-workers.
    •          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.
    •          Contact your healthcare provider for management of flu symptoms or  treatment of any complications.

    Stay up-to-date on influenza activity in Maryland by visiting http://dhmh.maryland.gov/fluwatch for weekly updates. Maryland has an established Internet-based Maryland Resident Influenza Tracking Survey (MRITS). This tool is designed to enhance the state’s existing influenza surveillance by monitoring influenza-like illnesses among residents who might not seek medical care. Please volunteer!  Sign up via the Internet athttp://flusurvey.dhmh.md.gov/ to receive online surveys where you can report any flu-like symptoms each week.

    For more information about the seriousness of influenza and the benefits of vaccination, visit http://flu.maryland.gov or  http://www.cdc.gov/flu/  orhttp://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/index.htm or call CDC at 1-800-CDC-INFO. 
    Stay connected: www.twitter.com/MarylandDHMH or www.facebook.com/MarylandDHMH. ​