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Flu season looming

November 21, 1997

By MARLO BARNHART

Staff Writer

While the first two cases of Influenza A have been confirmed in Kent County, Md., for the 1997-98 season, there are still no reported cases in Washington County.

Linda Humbert, director of nursing at the Washington County Health Department, said Friday that 4,700 flu shots and 570 pneumonia shots were administered during a number of recent clinics.

"We are still giving pneumonia shots," Humbert said. Anyone wishing to get a pneumonia shot can call 301-791-3210 for an appointment.

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As for flu shots, anyone now wishing a flu shot should contact a physician, Humbert said. No more clinics have been scheduled.

The two confirmed cases in Kent County were elderly residents, neither of whom was vaccinated this year, according to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

"Although the flu has been found in Maryland, it is not too late to get vaccinated," said Dr. Martin Wasserman, DHMH secretary.

The subtype of the two cases haven't been determined but this year's vaccine protects against A/Johannesbur, A/Nanchang and B/Harbin.

Anyone at high risk should get a flu shot annually, ideally in October through mid-November because the virus strains change every year and the vaccine's protection wears off after several months, Wasserman said.

"All the viruses in the vaccine are killed, so contrary to what many believe, you cannot get the flu from the vaccine," Wasserman said.

Considered at high risk are:

* People 65 and older. A one-time pneumonia vaccination is also recommended in tandem with flu shot.

* People with chronic lung, heart or kidney disease.

* Those with chronic metabolic disorders such as diabetes.

* People with suppressed immune systems due to cancer chemotherapy, HIV infection or AIDS.

It also is recommended that women who will be more than three months pregnant during the flu season be vaccinated at or after the start of the second trimester.

Pregnant women who have medical conditions that increase their risk for complications should be vaccinated ideally before the flu season regardless of the stage of pregnancy.

Health care workers including doctors, nurses, nursing home employees and home health care workers also should be vaccinated - to prevent transmission to high risk people.

Influenza is an acute viral respiratory illness characterized by fever, sore throat, cough, headache and muscle aches. Length of illness is usually two to seven days.

If shortness of breath, chest pain or severe headache occurs, a physician should be called immediately.

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