Michael A. Sawyers
CUMBERLAND — The Western Maryland Regional Medical Center is experiencing an increase in emergency department visits from people having influenza symptoms, according to spokeswoman Kathy Rogers.
“We currently have 10 patients admitted with flu,” Rogers said Friday.
There are only three locations across the country where the flu is not widespread — California, Mississippi and Washington D.C., according to national health officials.
The Allegany County Health Department has upgraded its website —www.alleganyhealthdept.com — warning from blue to red to indicate an increased incidence of the illness here.
“It’s important for anyone who hasn’t gotten a flu shot to still get one,” said spokeswoman Brenda Caldwell.
Dr. Sue Raver, county health officer, said it will take up to two weeks for the vaccination to become effective.
“The match of this year’s vaccine is very effective for the predominant type of flu we are experiencing,” Raver said.
On the website is a flu vaccine finder where a person can enter a ZIP code and find out where to get a shot.
A variety of other links that supply information about the flu exist there as well, including one allows residents to report flu symptoms from their part of Maryland.
Raver said schools in the county are experiencing high rates of absences, with more taking place at the high school and middle school levels than for elementary school students.
During the first seven school days following the Christmas break of one year ago, there were 4,531 absences in the county’s schools, according to board of education spokeswoman Mia Cross.
During the first eight schools days this year that followed the holidays, 5,727 students missed classes.
Cross said school officials are not able to determine how many absences from each period are flu-related.
Raver said the flu seems to be contracted this year across a wide range of ages, young children to the elderly.
“Vaccines aren’t perfect, but they help,” Raver said. “People who have been vaccinated, but still get the flu are not as sick.”
The fact that Frostburg State University is not in full session has lessened the impact of flu there.
In fact, Mary Tola, director of the Brady Health Center, reports no confirmed flu cases on campus as of Friday.
Flu vaccine has been available since September at the health center, and some doses remain.
Washing one’s hands frequently and covering coughs and sneezes are the two best ways to prevent spread of flu, according to flufacts.com.
The influenza virus can live for two to eight hours on surfaces.
The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said flu is widespread across Maryland but there are signs it may be stabilizing.
State Epidemiologist David Blythe said that some indicators are stable or up slightly, while others are decreasing. The department said there were 199 flu-associated hospitalizations in the week ending Jan. 5.
In West Virginia, fewer than 1,400 flu cases have been confirmed, according to public health officials.
State Public Health Commissioner Marian Swinker said those who are sick should stay home.
Contact Michael A. Sawyers at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Associated Press contributed to this article.