Flu season arrives locally
MANISTIQUE – Flu season has arrived across the state, and the local area is no exception. According to health officials, while there is no epidemic thus far, there are numerous cases being reported throughout the region.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu is caused by influenza viruses which infect the respiratory tract and can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications. Often mistaken for the flu are bacteria, parasitic or viral infections, such as noroviruses, which cause nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. The CDC stresses that the actual flu is a respiratory disease and not a stomach or intestinal disease.
Dr. James Terrian, medical director for the Luce, Mackinac, Alger, and Schoolcraft Health Department, said a number of area residents have been testing positive on rapid flu tests, which identify the presence of influenza A and B. Included in this group of flu-positive residents have been children.
By Jan. 3, the Michigan Department of Community Health reported three influenza-associated pediatric deaths in the state. Everyone 6 months of age and up are encouraged by the MDCH to obtain a flu vaccination. Some children six months through eight years of age require two doses of influenza vaccine, with the second dose given at least 28 days after the first dose. To protect children younger than six months, who cannot receive a flu vaccination, the MDCH recommends anyone coming in contact with the infant be immunized.
“While it’s too early to tell how severe our season might be, there’s no doubt that we’ve seen more cases already this year than we typically do,” James K. Haveman, director of the MDCH said, following the reported deaths. “Hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized with flu each year. Vaccination is the single most important step we can take to protect ourselves and our families against infection. It’s not too late to get vaccinated before Michigan’s flu season peaks.”
In addition to the two flu-associated pediatric deaths in Michigan, there have been 149 positive influenza cases confirmed at the MDCH Bureau of Laboratories. This number does not represent all the influenza cases diagnosed and reported in Michigan, as additional cases have been confirmed at laboratories throughout the state. During the last flu season, there were four positive cases reported during the same period.
According to Terrian, the level of influenza, though currently high, remains below the “epidemic” threshold.
“So far most of the culture reports I have seen are for viruses that have been included in the vaccine for this year,” he explained. “So folks who have gotten the vaccine have some degree of protection.”
Terrian also noted that many people have been experiencing gastroenteritis, likely related to the norovirus, leading many to mistakenly believe the flu is more widespread than it actually is.
“Unfortunately, the immunity to these viruses, which is poor at best, does not last long,” he said. “While that is good for the virus, it also means we will have the infection many times in our life times.”
Vaccinations can be given throughout flu season and the MDCH is reporting an ample supply of flu vaccine available. For more information about the flu, visit www.michigan.gov/flu.