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Get Poked: Flu Season Is Here

October is the first month of flu season, that wonderful germ-filled time that stretches until May, but peaks between December and February here in Maryland.

Pass us a Kleenex, please.

So far, more than a dozen cases have been reported in the state, says Darcy McCarty, a senior practice manager with MinuteClinic. Last year, Maryland experienced a moderate flu season, she says. And while there have been some reports about a rough flu season this year in other parts of the world, it’s too early to characterize the season here.

“That’s not something I’d hang my hat on,” she says.

What truly makes for a bad season, McCarty adds, is when patients disregard warnings and do not get a flu shot.

“That’s when we see those complications,” she says, adding that children who experience severe flu symptoms or even die from the complications usually have not received the vaccine for that year. Patients often ask if a vaccine is not 100 percent effective against the flu, “what’s the point.” But the vaccine prevents the flu from being a more severe case, she says.

Who should get a flu vaccine? Anyone older than six months of age, she says, adding that if it’s a child’s first time receiving the vaccine, he or she will need a booster shot four or more weeks later.

Adults over 65 need to receive a higher dose of the vaccine as well. “As we age, our immune system becomes less responsive,” she says.

There is a common misconception that receiving the flu vaccine can actually cause someone to contract the flu. “That kind of steams me a little bit,” McCarty says. The vaccine does not contain a live virus and cannot cause the flu in any patient. Most likely that person came into contact with the virus during their day-to-day of going to work, running errands or other activities and before the vaccine took full effect.

“That’s why we tell people to get vaccine early,” she says. The vaccine’s antigen signals the body’s immune response, but full immunity doesn’t happen right away.

Her other advice for this time of year: “Rest, wash your hands, cover your cough, sneeze in your elbow and wash your hands before eating.”

In summary, “it’s communicable disease season,” she says.

About Jessica Gregg

Jessica Gregg, managing editor of Baltimore STYLE, is a graduate of University of Maryland’s journalism school. She spent more than a decade writing for newspapers around central Maryland before she moved to the Big Sky country of Montana and began to teach writing. After returning to Charm City, she worked for Sisters of Academy of Baltimore, among other schools, blogging and writing in her free time until she made the return to journalism for good. She previously worked as the special products editor for The Daily Record. She is a happy rowhouse dweller and mother of two.

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