Area residents urged to vaccinate against the flu
Wednesday, 31 October 2012 11:43

Flu season now underway in Maryand

by Nicole Rodman

    Flu season has come to Maryland earlier than usual this year.   
    On Oct. 19, Maryland health officials announced that the first cases of influenza had been confirmed.
    Last year’s first flu case was not confirmed until December.
    As Frances Phillips with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene noted last week, “Flu is here earlier this year than last year, and we are seeing two different flu strains.”
   

She added, “This really stresses the importance of getting the flu vaccine, and getting it as soon as possible.”
    For pharmacist Dylan Sinclair, who works at Rita Aid pharmacy on Harford Road, he cannot stress enough the importance of getting a flu shot as soon as possible.
    In an interview with The Eagle last Friday, Sinclair noted that, while the flu shot is epecially important for high-risk groups, everyone over six months of age should be vaccinated.
    High-risk groups include children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems.
    As Sinclair was quick to note, however, even those not in high-risk groups should be making plans to get the vaccine.
    According to Sinclair, approximately 20 percent of the population will end up getting the flu this season, with 200,000 people being hospitalized for complications.
    While most of the people who are hospitalized for flu each year are high-risk, Sinclair explained,  many of those who end up in the hospital were otherwise healthy.
    Even if you are not worried about getting the flu yourself, getting vaccinated annually will help prevent the spread of flu to more vulnerable populations.
    According to a study sponsored by pharmaceutical maker Sanofi- Pasteur this summer, while two in three adults fear spreading the flu to family and friends, three in five remain unvaccinated.
    For Sinclair, and others in the healthcare field, getting the word out about the importance of vaccination is the most important way to fight flu.
    Flu vaccinations shots must be readministered each year. Since influenza mutates quickly, last year’s vaccine would prove useless against this year’s flu strains.
    Flu shots are available for free or at low cost at doctor’s offices, urgent care clinics and many local pharmacies, including Rite Aid, CVS and Giant pharmacy.
    As Sinclair explained, flu shots can often be paid for by insurance.  At Rite Aid, most insurance plans are accepted. Patients without insurance can get flu shots for $29.99 each.
    At Rite Aid, both traditional and intradermal flu vaccinations are offered.
    A new option, Fluzone Intradermal vaccination uses a smaller needle and directs the vaccine into the skin rather than into the muscle.
    In addition to vaccination, the best bet for avoiding the flu is to minimize contact with germs, by washing hands frequently and covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing.
    By getting vaccinated and taking a few simple precautions, most individuals should be able to avoid, or at least minimize, the chance of developing flu.
    For more information, visit the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-
season-2012-2013.htm.