Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson was not the only person in Maryland who had flu-like symptoms. The state has now seen widespread, high influenza activity for the past few weeks.
Four adults have died from the flu, according to the Maryland Department of Health’s weekly flu index report for the week ending Dec. 21. Flu reports are generally released at the end of the week. The report from Dec. 28 is the most recent and was released Jan. 3, but that report did not include updated death totals.
The majority of cases have been caused by the Type B Victoria strain of the flu, according to the Dec. 28 report. The last two flu seasons were predominantly Type A strains, according to the health department.
It is unusual for the flu season to start with Type B strains, health department spokeswoman Maureen Regan said in an email. The Type B Victoria strain, as well as Type A strains, are covered by the flu vaccine released this season.
Both strains cause similar symptoms, she said. People 65 and older, people with specific chronic conditions, such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes, pregnant women and children under 5 are at higher risk for serious health complications caused by the flu.
Although the health department could not say if the state was in peak flu season, it did appear to start earlier than usual, Regan said in the email.
Visits to the emergency department due to flu-like symptoms have been rising since November. As of Dec. 28, approximately 9.5 percent of visits were due to flu-like symptoms, according to the weekly index.
While emergency department visits continue to rise, hospitalizations due to flu decreased compared with the previous week. The number of hospitalizations was not updated for the Dec. 28 report.
The trends seen in Maryland reflect the national flu trends reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nationwide, the majority of flu cases are Type B.
The majority of people going to emergency departments or seeing their doctors are between 5 and 24 years old.
The flu vaccination is still available, said Kelley Smith, a nurse and immunization coordinator with the Frederick County Health Department.
It is never too late to vaccinate, Smith said in an email.
Those who are struggling to find a flu shot for their children can contact the health department, Smith said. For details, call 301-600-1029.