Flu season comes early to Washington County

January 03, 2013|By CALEB CALHOUN |

Smithsburg Family Medical Center Physician Dr. Gail Callaway had seen five patients Wednesday who had the flu, including a couple of whom had gotten their flu vaccinations.

“The flu shot protects people against three strains of the flu, and two of the strains this year were new,” she said. “You can still get the flu if you get the flu shot but it’s not as severe as it would be if you didn’t get it.”

A patient with the flu who got a flu shot could have gotten a different strain of the flu other than the three in the vaccine, Callaway said. The viruses selected to be included in the vaccine are determined based on what virus strains circulating at the time.

Flu season seems to have started a bit earlier around Washington County than usual, Callaway said. She added that people should still get flu shot, though.


“It does help protect you, and it depends on your immune system, age, and health, and if you do get the flu then it would be a milder case,” she said. “It also protects other people around you because there are some people who just cannot get the flu shot.”

Callaway actually said that the flu outbreak could also be a result of people not getting vaccinated.

“I think people almost became a little bit complacent because flu season has not been bad at all the last couple years except for H1N1,” she said, refering to the 2009 outbreak. “We probably had about 20 positive flu tests total (Wednesday).”

According to published reports, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that the flu has indeed arrived earlier than usual this flu season, with a significant increase in cases over the past three weeks across the United States.

Meritus Health Chief Medical Officer Heather Lorenzo said that Meritus had not seen much of the flu until this week.

“We’ve had a lot of patients come into the emergency room,” she said. “If you look at our current flu situation from previous years, we’re up a little from 2010 and 2011. We have asked our primary and urgent care practices to extend their hours.”

Lorenzo, however, said that she does not think this is early for the flu season.

“It varies from year to year,” she said. “This is not out of the ordinary.”

Around the area, residents gave mixed reactions to getting a flu shot.

Waynesboro resident Ronnie Benner, 35, got one, but his wife, Mary, 42, did not.

“I don’t get sick that often,” she said. “I think the flu shot is necessary to people with health problems.”

Ronnie Benner said he got his flu shot in September.

“I always get it early,” he said. “I’m asthmatic so if I get sick with the flu I get put in the hospital.”

Community Free Clinic Executive Director Robin Roberson provided a list of tips for people to avoid the flu, including avoiding those who are sick, taking vitamins, washing hands and using hand sanitizers, and staying at home if you are sick.

Sherry Bingaman, 52, of Greencastle, works as a medical assistant, and said she made sure to get the flu shot while also stressing that everybody who can should.

“The flu can be dangerous, especially for the elderly or infants,” she said. “The effects of it can cause other problems.”

Colton Keplinger, 19, of Boonsboro, said he did not get a flu shot.

“I make sure I do things like cover my mouth when I cough and sneeze,” he said. “I’m not against a flu shot, I just didn’t get it this year.”

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