Anne Arundel County Department of Health officials said Thursday they are aware of two flu-related deaths in the county during this flu season.
It is the worst flu season in the state since 2014-15, officials said in a news release. And the acting county health officer, Fran Phillips, said they’re not sure what is ahead.
“Have we hit the peak yet or is it still climbing?” she said. “That’s what we don’t know.”
Both residents who died were older than 65, and their deaths were confirmed by local hospitals, the department said. Adult flu deaths aren’t reportable in Maryland, county department spokeswoman Elin Jones said, so it is unclear if these are the first flu-related deaths in the county.
It is never too late to get vaccinated, the department advises. There will be a free walk-in flu vaccine clinic from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday at the department’s Glen Burnie health center, with a break in service from noon to 1 p.m. The center is at 416 A St. SW. Phillips said no identification or fee is required, though a signed consent form is needed.
“We can handle high volumes of people,” she said. “It shouldn’t be a wait at all.”
When people are vaccinated, they “put a ring of protection around their household and around others in their community,” Phillips said.
However, this year’s vaccine is not proving as effective as prior years. It’s not an exact match to the strains of flu they are seeing, she said.
“It can still be absolutely effective in moderating the symptoms so your case isn’t severe,” she said.
Another key measure to take is staying home from work or school if you are sick, Phillips said. Fever, headaches, aches and pain, fatigue and extreme exhaustion are all symptoms of the flu that are rare or less common if a person just has a cold. A list of symptoms and the differences between the cold and the flu can be found on the health department’s website at www.aahealth.org.
The virus wants to get to your respiratory system, Phillips said, so it is also important to wash your hands and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
Between Oct. 1 and Jan. 25, 115 people were hospitalized in the county with the flu, the department said. Jones said most of those people were not vaccinated. Cases of the flu started to rise in mid-January, after people returned home from the holidays, she said.
In the week of Jan. 28, an average of 44 county residents a day visited emergency rooms for influenza-like illness.
The county tracks the flu by receiving feedback from hospitals, and also works with school nurses to monitor absentee rates.