The 45th person in Maryland to die from swine flu was a Baltimore City resident. Since the virus emerged in the state last May, nine local residents have died from it, including two children under age 18, according to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH).

For the past several weeks, the Centers for Disease Control has reported an elevation in local and regional flu activity in the Southeastern United States, prompting Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and the Baltimore City Health Department (BCHD) to encourage residents to get vaccinated.

“Knowing that there are more flu cases and hospitalizations right now in the southeastern states means that we cannot become complacent,” Rawlings-Blake said in a statement. “Unfortunately, we continue to see hospitalizations and even deaths. This new virus is still with us, and it’s more important than ever to get vaccinated.”

While the CDC has reported only sporadic swine flu activity in Maryland, a slight increase has recently been seen in Baltimore City. Since May 2009, over 200 people in the state have been hospitalized from swine flu, compared to 10,000 people nationally. Over 1,000 people have died of the virus across the country.

The BCHD urges everyone – especially the elderly, children under five, pregnant women, and those with chronic health conditions – to get vaccinated.

?“ have not developed that antibody protection in the system and they are at risk in getting this,” said Anne Bailowitz, acting chief medical officer of the Baltimore City Health Department. “That is supported by the fact that that young people are usually attacked. have seen many different kinds of flu so they have some of this protection still hanging around in their bodies.”

?Bailowitz said the virus disproportionately strikes those under 25 years of age, pregnant women and the chronically ill, especially asthmatics, but older adults are also at risk. For prevention, she suggests that people take advantage of the “plentiful, safe and effective” vaccine available at the city’s free walk-in clinics. Administered by injection or through a nasal spray, both forms of the vaccine contain a live, weakened form of the H1N1 virus and are the first lines of defense against the deadly virus.

“It was a year ago this month that H1N1 swine flu first came to Maryland,” said Frances Phillips, DHMH deputy secretary for public health service in a statement. “The weather is beautiful, summer is around the corner and yet this flu is persistent. It continues to infect children and adults. The best protection for yourself and your family – even now – is vaccination.”

For more information on swine flu or getting vaccinated, visit  http://www.BaltimoreHealth.org/swineflu or call 443-984-4FLU.

 

MelanieR.Holmes

AFROStaffWriter