Flu cases on the rise in Maryland

There has been a "dramatic" increase in flu cases across Maryland in the past two weeks, according to the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The state's tracking system shows that there are now flu cases across the state, and they are starting to "impact emergency rooms in a serious fashion," said David Paulson, a department spokesman. For the week ending Jan. 1, there were 273 confirmed cases.

State officials are encouraging residents to get vaccinated in advance of the flu season's peak in late February. This year's vaccine includes seasonal flu strains and the H1N1 flu strain, and it's available in doctors' offices, retail outlets and community clinics.

"With illness occurring in communities throughout Maryland, now is the time for anyone not yet vaccinated to do so," Frances Phillips, the state's deputy secretary for public health services, said in a statement. "We will protect ourselves as well as others who may be at risk for more serious flu symptoms."