Wash your hands and shun your feverish co-workers everyone: The flu is here.
Maine has confirmed its first case of influenza this season, in an unvaccinated adult from Sagadahoc County, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced today. The case was detected late last week by Mid Coast Hospital, but the individual didn’t need to be admitted to the hospital, according to a press release from the agency.
Seasonal flu is caused by the influenza A and B viruses. Influenza A was the culprit in Maine’s first recorded case of the season, according to Maine CDC.
“This first case should serve as a reminder to Mainers to do everything they can to protect themselves this flu season,” Dr. Siiri Bennett, state epidemiologist, said in the release. “Vaccination is the most effective prevention method and we encourage Mainers to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
You may remember that last year’s flu shot didn’t work all that well. But federal health officials expect the vaccine — which is reformulated each year — to offer better protection this time around, with a recent analysis showing it’s well matched to the strains circulating in the U.S.
If you’re interested in the science behind the flu shot, this Vox column does a nice job explaining it. Bottom line: Flu vaccines don’t work fabulously well, at least according to the flawed but best evidence out there, but the risks are tiny and far outweighed by the potential complications or death from flu.
Up to 20 percent of Americans will get the flu each year, according to Maine CDC. On average, more than 200,000 are hospitalized for flu-related complications. People at high risk for developing complications include: children younger than 5; adults aged 65 and older; pregnant women; American Indians; Alaskan natives; people who have underlying medical conditions (including asthma, heart disease, and weakened immune systems); and the morbidly obese.
Health officials recommend an annual flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older, including those who were immunized last year. The vaccine, which is widely available in Maine, kicks in fully after about two weeks.
The flu season can start as early as October and extend into May, typically peaking between December and February.
Symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue.
Beyond the vaccine, be sure to wash your hands frequently, cover your coughs, and stay home if you do catch the flu bug. Your co-workers and the general public will thank you.
For questions about the flu vaccine, contact the Maine Immunization Program at 207-287-3746 or 1-800-867-4775 or by e-mail at email@example.com. For more information about the flu, visit www.MaineFlu.gov.