If you're worried about catching the flu that has been making its way across Maryland over the past two weeks, then maybe it's time to get that flu shot.
"We continue to have a limited supply of vaccine that we are offering to the public and will continue to do so until we have no more," said Dr. Maura J. Rossman, Howard County's Health Officer. "We are not overwhelmed in Howard County, compared to how we hear New York state and Massachusetts is, and that's a very good thing."
"We encourage all Howard County residents to get immunized," said Rossman, "that's the most effective way of preventing flu."
Rossman said the typical flu season tends to peak in January or February then goes away.
"There's about a six week period of flu," said Rossman. "We may be peaking now, or already have peaked and are on the downside."
Rossman said even if we are on the downside, many more people will still contract the flu before it goes away.
In anticipation, the Howard County Health Department recently added a number of additional flu clinics at the Columbia Health Center (7180 Columbia Gateway Drive, Columbia) for county residents to obtain a free flu vaccine.
The following flu clinics will be available:
- Thursday, Jan. 17, 1 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. - Appointment only for all members of the public, appointments can be made beginning on the evening of Jan. 14 on the Health Department website.
- Thursday, Jan. 24, 9 a.m. - 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. - Open to the public, walk-ins welcome, but public can also schedule an appointment to avoid possible long wait times.
- Friday, Jan. 25, Noon - 3 p.m. - Open to the public, walk-ins welcome, appointments can be made on the Health Department website.
If you're worried about possibly contracting the flu before getting a vaccine, Dr. Rossman recommended the following measures to take to avoid getting sick:
- Wash your hands frequently
- Keep your distance from family members or others who may be sick
"Folks are infectious up to two days before getting sick and most infectious while they have a fever," said Rossman. "If you're not feeling well, please don't go to work. Take care of yourself and seek help if you need to."
Rossman said the flu situation in the county is not serious enough to encourage social distancing (staying away from populated areas such as malls) and that county schools have not reported absence rates over 10 percent, which is a public health trigger.
During the week ending Jan. 5, the Maryland Department of Mental Health and Hygiene reported there were a total of 199 influenza-associated hospitalizations reported, with 118 (56 percent) of them reported in people over the age of 65.
The state health department said influenza like illnesses were above normal in more than half the regions in the state, but noted indicators showed a downward trend from last week.
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