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A Maryland child became the 54th pediatric fatality of the 2018 flu season as the number of flu-related hospitalizations in both the state and county continue to increase significantly, the Maryland Department of Health announced Tuesday.

Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene statistics show this year’s flu season – which typically runs from October to March – has seen 6.8 percent of visits to “sentinel providers” come from influenza-like illnesses, which is well above the 2 percent average usually seen during the week of Jan. 24 in a typical year.

“This year we know there has been a higher-than-average h3n2 cases which is a more severe strain of the influenza virus,” said Dr. Travis Gayles, the County’s Health Officer and Chief of Public Health.

Gayles said children and the elderly have been hit hardest by the more severe h3n2 strain of the influenza virus. County health officials’ response to this year’s more hard-hitting strains has included working with hospitals to monitor local cases and renewing a public relations campaign to remind people of the importance of hand washing and encourage them to be mindful of symptoms.

Hospitals adopt stricter rules in wake of flu epidemic

Hospital systems across Montgomery County are enforcing restricted visitation policies due to a widespread flu epidemic.

Adventist Healthcare Shady Grove Medical Center, Holy Cross Germantown and Silver Spring Hospitals, MedStar Montgomery Medical Center, Suburban Hospital and Washington Adventist Hospital have all initiated polices to try to minimize the spread of the flu.

Montgomery County Health and Human Services Public Information Officer Mary Anderson issued a statement on Jan. 23 stating that the six major hospital systems in Montgomery have implemented the following visitor policies: