From the Harford County Health Department:
According to an October 3rd news release from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (MD DHMH), seasonal influenza has officially arrived in Maryland with the first laboratory-confirmed case. It was identified in a child from the National Capital Region who was briefly hospitalized but is recovering. The flu strain detected was type A (H1N1) influenza protection against which this year’s seasonal flu vaccine provides protection.
The news arrives as the Harford County Health Department (HCHD) enters the eighth year of its aggressive campaign to vaccinate public and private school elementary-aged youth. On Monday, October 7th, the Health Department collaborated with Harford County Public Schools to complete its schedule of providing first doses to more than 9,400 elementary public school children throughout the County. This exceeds last year’s total by nearly 1,000. The total number of Flumist doses, including first and second doses, is expected to reach over 10,000, states HCHD Emergency Preparedness Coordinator, Lisa Swank, who coordinates the operation for the health department.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data from 2010 established Harford as the leader among all Maryland local jurisdictions for childhood influenza vaccination rates. Most recent 2011 BRFSS data places Harford’s 68.7% childhood flu vaccination rate second statewide, and well above the state average of 57.6%.
Parents of all Harford County elementary-aged public, private and home-schooled children also are advised that after they complete a vaccine consent form, the Health Department will provide vaccinations to their elementary school-aged children without cost at its Woodbridge location in Edgewood. Parents should call 410-612-1774 for more information about this service.
Last year, the first case of influenza was reported on October 19, 2012. DHMH Secretary, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein uses this opportunity to remind the public how important it is to get vaccinated to protect themselves, their loved ones and everyone else. The vaccine is safe, effective, widely available and is recommended for everyone above the age of 6 months. “Influenza infection” he states, “can be serious but can also be prevented.”
Harford County Health Officer Susan Kelly warns, “It’s critical to our community’s best public health interests that everyone understand the unpredictable nature of influenza. There’s no way of knowing with any certainty how serious an impact the seasonal flu will have in the coming months.” In addition to receiving vaccination, she recommends thorough and frequent hand washing during the flu season, and stresses the importance of covering the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing to prevent the spread of illness.
The public can check on influenza activity in Maryland by visiting http://dhmh.maryland.gov/fluwatch for weekly updates. Maryland also has an Internet-based Maryland Resident Influenza Tracking Survey (MRITS) designed to enhance the state’s existing influenza surveillance by monitoring influenza-like illnesses among residents who may not seek medical care. Volunteers can sign up to participate at http://flusurvey.dhmh.md.gov/ to receive on-line 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 the Harford County Health Department website at www.harfordcountyhealth.com and these other public health websites: http://phpa.dhmh.maryland.gov/influenza/SitePages/Home.aspx, http://www.cdc.gov/flu/ or http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/index.htm.