The flu is coming soon, but it’s not too late to do something about it.
That was the gist of Deputy Health Officer Dr. Henry Taylor’s briefing Thursday to the Board of County Commissioners, sitting as the Board of Health, on the state of the 2017-2018 flu season.
“Within the next one to two weeks, I think we will start seeing the flu spreading through the community,” he said. “Doing the math isn’t complicated; that [it] will be during the holidays.”
The timing is good and bad news. On the one hand, with children home from school for the holidays, there is less concentration of people in one place to facilitate the spread of the virus, Taylor said. On the other, friends and family will be meeting to celebrate the holidays.
“You will probably, hopefully, be linking with other people and crossing all sorts of social networks,” Taylor said, “which will give the flu virus a lot of opportunity to spread.”
The good news, however, is that it is not too late to get a flu shot.
“The shot will take effect within one to two weeks and get you some immunity in time for when we expect it to be coming through the community,” he said.
And as Taylor has previously told the Times, in Maryland, the flu season often lasts until May, so a vaccination now can provide protection well into 2018.
Other means of protections include hand washing, of course, but also maintaining a “social distance” from those who might be ill during the holidays, Taylor said.
“When you cough and sneeze, usually the droplets that are carrying the virus fall down and precipitate out within three feet,” he said.
Those people who may be especially sensitive to the flu should also consider speaking with their doctor about anti-viral medications.
“We don’t want to over-use them because we can breed resistance, but this is a year when we’re thinking those people who have illnesses and need to have an extra level of protection should really get their antivirals in a timely manner,” Taylor said. “If you don’t start them right away, it won’t help once you really come down with the flu and are suffering the symptoms.”
The flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is a respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. It can cause mild, cold-like symptoms such as coughing and sneezing, as well as more severe symptoms not often seen with colds, such as fevers, severe aches and headaches.
The flu can also be fatal — the CDC reports 101 children died during the 2016-2017 flu season.
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Getting a flu shot can help protect you from the flu as well as help prevent the spread of the virus to others. The Carroll County Health Department maintains a website with local resources on where to obtain a flu shot at www.cchd.maryland.gov/flu.