A second adult has died from the flu in Maryland.
Flu activity in Maryland started to increase, with the state health department reporting moderate activity for the first time in the 2019-2020 flu season, according to its weekly flu index.
The weekly flu report released by the Maryland Department of Health is generally a week behind, so the most recent report came out at the end of Nov. 30. The first flu death was reported at the end of October. The second was reported in between Nov. 23 and Nov. 30.
While the charts and graphs included in the weekly report suggest that Maryland’s flu season is worsening earlier than usual, representatives at the health department said it is too early to tell if the flu will be bad.
Maryland’s flu season will vary each year, but generally it begins at the end of January and ends in March, said Evelyn Mahugu, an epidemiologist in the health department’s Division of Infectious Disease Surveillance.
Visits to physicians and emergency departments were trending up, with approximately 3.4 percent of emergency department trips flu related. While the flu-related visits always increase throughout the season, they typically start to steeply increase in December instead of November, according to the index report.
There is also an increase in the percentage of rapid flu tests that are positive, but Mahugu said it is not unusual for the flu season.
“It’s constantly changing. So we just can’t look at the rapid flu test and say, ‘Hey, something is unusual.’ ... That would not give us the best picture is what I would say,” she said.
Currently, the health department has seen four flu strains, which are all covered by the flu vaccination this year, she said.
The majority of the positive flu tests are Type B flus, majorly the Victoria strain. There have been less cases of the Type A H3 strains, which tend to be more severe, Mahugu said.
Usually the flu season starts with Type A strains and ends with Type B strains. Even though this year is different, it is not something that concerns Mahugu, she said.
The flu often hits those older than 50 and those younger than 17 the hardest, she said. Even though the flu is already out, people can still get the flu shot, she said.
This year, there are more physicians and people are part of the provider network, which helps the health department keep better track of flu trends, Mahugu said.
“And so that’s why the more the more providers we have, the more data we have, the better we’re able to break down the data,” she said.