While the new deadly strain of coronavirus is getting the top health headlines this winter, we all need to remember that we are still in peak flu season, which can be just as dangerous.

According to reports from the Maryland Department of Health, the last few weeks have shown high activity for influenza illness through a widespread geographic area. There have been 25 deaths reported in Maryland so far this season. That comes from the most recent report from the Maryland Department of Health, dated Feb. 1.

The report showed 58 medical providers reporting 3,563 visits from patients with influenza-like illness. Emergency departments showed 7,014 such visitors, according to the report. Labs returned 4,260 positive tests for the flu — 2,133 for Type A and 2,127 for Type B, the report states. The report shows that there were 261 influenza-associated hospitalizations during the week of Feb. 1.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a person can pass the flu on to someone else up to six feet away. The most highly contagious time of a flu case is the first three or four days, potentially before symptoms arise.

“Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Children and some people with weakened immune systems may pass the virus for longer than 7 days,” the CDC website states. “Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those people may still spread the virus to others.”

The first step in preventing the spread of the flu is to get vaccinated, the CDC and the Maryland Department of Health state.

“The most important way to prevent influenza is vaccination. There is a new vaccine every year because the flu viruses change from year to year. The shot you received last year won’t protect you this year,” the Maryland Department of Health website states.

In addition, limit contact with anyone who is sick and if you are sick, stay away from others as much as possible, the CDC advises.

“If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities,” the website states.

Flu symptoms include fever or feeling feverish, cough, sore throat, runny nose, aches, headaches and fatigue. Some also experience vomiting and diarrhea.

To also help prevent the flu’s spread, use tissues to cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, wash your hands with soap and water, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth and clean any surfaces or objects that may be contaminated by germs, the CDC recommends.

We encourage everyone who has not already gotten a flu shot to do so, especially those who are at high risk of serious flu complications — young children, pregnant women, those with chronic medical conditions and anyone over 65 years old — or are around people who are at high risk.

The Talbot County Health Department, at 100 S. Hanson St., Easton, reported having 50 flu shots left, and the first 20 will be given for free; otherwise, the cost is $25. The health department is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call 410-819-5624 with questions.

According to the health department’s website, flu shots also are available at Hill’s Drug Store, Walmart, Giant, Target, Rite Aid, CVS, Walgreens and Harris Teeter in Easton, and Pemberton Pharmacy in St. Michaels.

To learn more about the flu and preventative measures, visit phpa.health.maryland.gov/influenza or www.cdc.gov/flu.

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