First case of flu reported in Maryland

State health officials confirmed Thursday this season's first flu case.

An Eastern Shore adult was hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed influenza and later released, according to the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The strain was A (H3), which was included in this year's flu vaccine, though officials did not say if the person was vaccinated.

The first case last year was reported a week earlier, on Oct. 3.

The flu season generally lasts until spring and most cases are not lab-confirmed or even reported because many people do not seek medical care. The state does, however, track the course and severity of the season through doctors and hospitals that report "influenza like illnesses."

Officials continue to urge residents to get vaccinated to protect themselves and prevent the virus from spreading.

"Individuals can help prevent influenza infection by getting the flu vaccine", said Dr. Laura Herrera, the state's deputy secretary for public health services, in a statement. "Vaccine is available throughout the state."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone over 6 months get the vaccine, but officials say it's especially important for those with underlying medical conditions, seniors, children and pregnant women because they are at higher risk for complications. The flu is believed to kill thousands of people across the country every year.

Vaccine is widely available at doctors' offices, health departments and pharmacies, state health officials said.

The virus causing the flu spreads through coughing and sneezing and direct contact with an infected person and contaminated surfaces. Symptoms generally surface one to four days after being exposed and include fever, body aches, fatigue, coughing and sore throat.

Antibiotics are not effective in treating viruses such as the flu. Officials recommend rest, fluids, hand washing and staying home.

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