The Maryland Department of Health (MDH) has just announced that 11 cases of influenza have been reported in the state.

According to a recent press release published on October 8, there are currently 11 documented cases of influenza in Maryland. The patients have contracted either Influenza A or Influenza B, and the current year's flu vaccine protects against both of these strains.

“We don’t know yet whether flu activity this early indicates a particularly bad season on the horizon," Robert R. Neall, Maryland Department of Health Secretary, said. "Still, we can’t emphasize strongly enough—get your flu shot now. Don’t put it off. The vaccine is widely available at grocery stores, pharmacies, and local health clinics, in addition to your doctor’s office.”

These first reported cases are a good indicator that the flu season has officially begun. For many of us, getting the flu would mean a few days of being sick at home, but it could be particularly devastating for the elderly, pregnant women, young children under 5, and people with compromised immune systems. Symptoms of the flu are similar to those of the common cold, but also include body aches and a general sense of lethargy and fatigue. The flu can spread from person to person through coughing, sneezing, and even contaminated surfaces.

flu symptoms, CDC

Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The best defense against getting influenza is the flu vaccine. It is very readily available (they're even offered at grocery store pharmacies!), and the injection does not require an appointment in most cases. Don't worry if you don't have insurance; the out-of-pocket price of a flu shot is about $30-$40. To find the flu vaccine provider closest to you, try entering your zip code into the CDC Vaccine Finder.

flu, CDC

Courtesy of the CDC

For more information about the flu and available resources, you can visit the MDH website, the CDC website, or even the CDC's flu-related Twitter account.

Have you received your flu shot this year, or are you planning on skipping it? Let us know in the comments.