June 18, 2018
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Seasonal flu arrives in Maine

By Jackie Farwell, BDN Staff

The flu has officially arrived in Maine for this season, state public health officials confirmed Monday.

The flu was detected late last week through lab tests in an adult from Kennebec County, according to a health alert issued by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The patient, who had underlying health conditions and was not vaccinated against the flu virus, didn’t require hospitalization, hadn’t traveled recently, and is recovering at home, according to the alert.

Three strains of the flu are circulating nationally — two types of influenza A and influenza B. This year’s traditional flu vaccine is likely to offer good protection against all three, according to Maine CDC. In addition, flu vaccines formulated to protect against four different flu viruses also are available.

Yearly flu vaccination should begin in September, according to the U.S. CDC. Health officials urge everyone over 6 months of age to get vaccinated against the illness, including those who were vaccinated last season.

The vaccine, available as both a shot and a nasal spray, takes full effect about two weeks after it is administered but offers some protection right away.

How well the vaccine protects against influenza varies from season to season and can depend on the individual. The vaccine is reformulated each year to match emerging strains of the illness.

To further reduce your chances of catching and spreading the illness this season, wash your hands regularly, cover your coughs and stay home if you’re sick.

The fevers, chills and body aches that typify the flu season can begin as early as October. The illness’ spread typically peaks in January and February but can continue into May.

Some areas of Maine were hit hard with influenza last season. An otherwise healthy child from central Maine died from the virus, and hospital emergency rooms and walk-in clinics filled up as the flu gripped the state, causing sustained misery and serious symptoms in many patients. Even some patients who were immunized against influenza fell ill, though with shorter and less severe symptoms than those who skipped their annual flu shot.

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