BERLIN – Despite regional activity, hospital officials in Worcester County are reporting a mild flu season.
With the 2018-2019 flu season well underway, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimated in its latest report between 6 million and 7 million people have been sick with the flu this year and between 69,000 and 84,000 people have been hospitalized for their illnesses.
And statewide, the Maryland Department of Health is reporting regional flu activity and a moderate intensity level.
But health officials at Atlantic General Hospital say they are seeing a relatively mild flu season thus far.
Nicole Morris, infection prevention manager, said 62 patients tested positive for flu this season and two were admitted to the hospital.
“The predominant flu virus this year is H1N1 and the flu vaccine is covering the primary flu [Type] A we are seeing …,” she said. “To date, we haven’t seen a ton of flu activity locally.”
Morris attributed the severity of last year’s flu season – during which the CDC estimated more than 80,000 flu-related deaths – for encouraging more people to get a flu vaccine this year. To date, the hospital has administered 3,500 flu vaccines.
“Because last year was such a bad flu season, I think more people came out to our clinics this year,” she said, “more so than in previous years.”
Morris noted this year’s vaccine protects against four different strains of the flu and added that people ages 65 and older have the option of receiving a stronger dose.
“Those that got vaccinated hopefully will get through the season,” she said. “The number one way to prevent the flu is to get the flu vaccine.”
While reports look promising, Morris said Worcester County may not be out of the woods just yet. She noted the CDC predicts a biphasic, or two-peak, flu season and the hospital has yet to see any indication of the first.
“We aren’t even on flu precautions when it comes to visitations at this point,” she said. “It has not hit us locally yet even though it’s in the state of Maryland. But I’m sure it’s coming our way.”
The CDC noted the number of states reporting widespread flu activity increased from 24 to 30 last week, and Morris added that Delaware was one of them.
“Delaware seems to be getting hit a little bit harder right now, but you know where we live,” she said. “It may be lurking around the corner.”
The CDC expects flu activity to continue for weeks and officials with the Worcester County Health Department encourage the public to take precautionary measures.
“The best protection available against the flu is getting a flu vaccine,” said Travis Brown, the health department’s public information officer. “It is not too late to receive a vaccine for this year. Residents who are interested should contact us at 410-632-1100 for more information.”
Brown added that people can also practice good health habits.
“Members of the public should also be proactive with good health habits to reduce their risk of catching the flu,” he said. “Good health habits include washing your hands, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, staying home while you are sick, and avoiding close contact with sick individuals.”