Season's 1st official flu case in Maryland is confirmed

December 07, 2007|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,SUN REPORTER

First the flakes, now the flu.

That other plague of winter appeared officially in Maryland this week with the first laboratory-confirmed case of Type A influenza.

The state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reported yesterday that its lab has isolated the flu bug in a specimen from an unidentified person living in metropolitan Baltimore.

Last year's first flu report came much earlier, on Oct. 31. But the later start to this year's flu season is not significant, said health department spokesman John Hammond.

"It's not early, not late," he said. "There have been some years that have been as late as January or February." The message from the medical community is the same: "Get your shot."

This year, vaccine is in plentiful supply and is said to be 70 percent to 90 percent effective in healthy adults.

It was not immediately known which Type A bug was isolated in Maryland. "Subculturing" was under way, Hammond said. The vaccine includes antigens for three strains, known as Type A Solomon Island, Type A Wisconsin and Type B Malaysia.

Most of the flu viruses isolated nationwide have been variants of the Wisconsin and Malaysia viruses, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Web site.

The bulk of cases have been in the South Atlantic states. No pediatric deaths have been reported in the United States.

The dismal symptoms include fever, dry cough, sore throat, headache, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches and extreme fatigue. Children can also experience ear infections, nausea and vomiting.

The vaccine is recommended for children ages 6 months to 5 years; pregnant women; those age 50 and older; and anyone with certain chronic conditions or who cares for or has contact with people at high risk for complications of the flu.

Flu also can be warded off by avoiding contact with symptomatic people, washing hands frequently and eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Public health officials also advise drinking plenty of water and getting lots of rest.

frank.roylance@baltsun.com

To locate a nearby flu clinic, visit www.lungusa.org

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