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The Maryland flu season has officially begun, after the announcement Thursday of the state's first confirmed case of influenza.

The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene confirmed that laboratory tests have indicated a hospitalized adult on the Eastern Shore was sick with the flu, making the start of the 2014-2015 flu season six days later than last year, when the first case appeared Oct. 3.

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The virus detected in the patient was an A strain, H3, according to DHMH, and this year's flu vaccine, which protects against this strain as well as the H1N1 and a B strain of the virus, is the best way to avoid contracting flu and prevent its spread.

The vaccine is recommended for all individuals older than 6 months and is strongly recommended for those at the greatest risk of catching the flu: young children, seniors, pregnant women and those whose immune systems might be compromised because of illness or medical treatment, according to DHMH.

In Carroll County, there are several senior flu clinics planned, beginning with the North Carroll Senior Center on Oct. 21, the Westminster Senior Center on Oct. 23 and the Taneytown Senior Center on Oct. 28.

Those 65 years of age or older should call the center nearest them for more information.

The Carroll County Health Department will be vaccinating children in Carroll County Public Schools throughout the month of October, according to Doris Hare, communicable disease program manager at the Health Department, and will offer free flu shot clinics on Tuesday, on Oct. 29 and on Nov. 19 for children who miss in-school vaccinations.

Adults interested in getting a flu shot can talk to their pharmacist, doctor or contact the health department, where Hare said adults without insurance should be able to purchase flu shots for $25 when the department receives more vaccines in the latter half of the month.

For those who do become ill with the flu, DHMH recommends staying home from work or school, covering coughs and sneezes, drinking plenty of fluids and washing hands or using hand sanitizer frequently.

Reach staff writer Jon Kelvey at 410-857-3317 or jon.kelvey@carrollcountytimes.com.

More information on flu vaccinations

Senior Flu Shot Clinics

9 a.m.-11:30 a.m. Oct. 21 at the North Carroll Senior and Community Center, 2328 Hanover Pike, Greenmount

9 a.m.-noon Oct. 23 at the Westminster Senior Center, 125 Stoner Ave., Westminster

9 a.m.-11 a.m. Oct. 28 at the Taneytown Senior Center, 220 Roberts Mill Road., Taneytown

Cost: $25 for those without Medicare or private insurance

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Carroll County Health Department's Children's Flu Shot Clinics

4 -7 p.m. Oct. 14, Oct. 29 and Nov. 19 at the Carroll County Health Department, 290 S. Center St., Westminster

Cost: Free

For more information on flu shots, contact your physician, pharmacy or call the Carroll County Health Department at 410-876-2152.

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