While the country may be in the throes of one of the worst flu seasons in years, Howard County’s flu numbers are on pace with previous years, hospital officials said.
Howard County General Hospital spokeswoman Susan Case said the hospital has seen less than 90 adult flu patients per week recently, which is in the hospital’s “normal” range for flu season. The hospital has not admitted any pediatric patients for serious flu complications.
Bob Linton, medical director for emergency services at the Columbia hospital, said that while the flu season peak came earlier this year than last when it hit in February, the staff has been able to keep up with its seasonal winter surge in patients .
Howard County schools do not differentiate tracking absences for individual illnesses, but does notify the health department if more than five students are out sick with similar symptoms, according to spokesman Brian Bassett. This season five schools, including Centennial Lane Elementary and Gorman Crossing Elementary, have done so.
County Health Officer Maura Rossman said the “single most important thing” residents can do to protect themselves and their families against the flu is to receive the flu vaccine. While she admitted this year’s vaccine is not a “perfect match” against the virus, “whatever protection this has to offer is certainly better than zero protection.”
Linton said that for most people who do catch the flu, with rest, hydration and anti-fever medication such as Tylenol, they should feel better within a week. If they have taken medication and the fever has lasted over 24 hours, Linton suggests calling a doctor or seeking care.
The county’s health department offers a walk-in flu shot clinic at its department headquarters in Columbia on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. The department has given approximately 2,600 flu shots so far this month, according to department spokeswoman Lisa de Hernández.