Official: Time for vaccination is now
MANISTIQUE – ’Tis the season for vaccinations. According to the medical director for the Luce, Mackinac, Alger Schoolcraft Health Department, there is no better time to vaccinate against flu and pertussis.
Commonly confused with the norovirus, a gastrointestinal virus causing stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea, influenza viruses are actually contagious respiratory illnesses. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common flu viruses are influenza A (H1N1) virus, influenza A (H3N2) virus, and influenza B virus. These viruses can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death, especially in the elderly, young children, and people with certain health conditions.
James Terrain, LMAS medical director, explained that influenza does not generally include nausea or vomiting, unless an elaborate coughing fit triggers these symptoms. In addition, he notes that the flu, which presents with muscle aches, fever, and coughing, will last a few days, while the norovirus will last no more than 48 hours. Those infected with the flu should be checked for phenomena if their cough is productive, Terrain added.
“Last winter was the mildest flu season we have had since we have been keeping track of it as well as we are now,” he said. “There is no explanation why this is the case, but it makes a difference when a larger proportion of the population is getting immunized.”
While the area can expect the flu to appear sometime in December, Terrain encourages residents to get vaccinated against the virus now.
“We recommend a number of weeks between the time of the shot and actual exposure, to allow more protection for the person,” he said. “It is time to do that now – there is no need to wait until later in the season.”
Peak flu season usually occurs around February or
March, Terrain explained. He noted that there have already been some residents who tested positive for flu in Lower Michigan, though there are no large-scale outbreaks yet.
The vaccination for pertussis, commonly referred to as whooping cough, is another preventative step residents should take, Terrain said. According to the CDC, Pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory disease categorized by its uncontrollable, violent coughing fits. Following fits, those with pertussis often take deep breathes resulting in a “whooping” sound. Pertussis most commonly affects infants and young children and can be fatal, especially in babies less than one year of age.
“We’ve had a case of pertussis in an adult in one of the (LMAS) counties this summer,” explained Terrain. “The adult contracted it following exposure at a family reunion in Minnesota. He contracted it from an 11-month-old.”
While the adult has mostly recuperated, Terrain said the illness is lengthy and draining. Pertussis cases have spiked throughout the country recently, including in Minnesota and Michigan, he added.
According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, there has been a steady increase in pertussis cases in the state during the past decade, with a peak of more than 1,500 cases in 2010. As of Sept. 30 of this year, there have been 597 reported cases.
“It is important that people understand the usefulness of pertussis boosters and immunizations,” Terrain explained. “Only about 3 percent of people eligible for the booster shot have actually gotten it.”
Due to the fatal nature of the illness for infants, Terrain said it is especially important for those who come in contact with any infant to either be vaccinated or obtain the booster – including parents, grandparents and caregivers. While an adult may not be experiencing symptoms, they can carry the illness and pass it on to those who are unprotected or vulnerable, he added.
“About half of adults that have a cough for more than three weeks probably have whooping cough, but don’t know it,” he said. “An adult will act differently than a child because of the size of their airway. However, it doesn’t take much for a child to get into big respiratory trouble because their airway is so much smaller.”
For more information on influenza or pertussis, contact LMAS at (800) 562-4832 or visit their website at lmashd.org.