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You are Viewing an Archived IssuePosted: 01/16/13
State reports fourth child
death attributed to flu
Health officials say flu
season has begun early
by CHRIS GRAYHealth officials are encouraging people to guard themselves from an early flu season as child deaths and confirmed cases rise.
Observer Staff Writer
The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) reports there has been four pediatric deaths in the state related to the flu for the 2012-13 season.
The most recent death, a 15-year old from the central region of Michigan, was confirmed on Jan. 8 by the MDCH.
The previous three instances claimed the lives of a 6-year-old from southwest Michigan, a 6-month-old in southwest Michigan and a 13-year-old from the central region.
Nationally, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) states there have been 20 pediatric deaths as of Jan. 4 for the 2012-13 flu season.
Angela Minicuci, public information officer for the MDCH, said pediatric deaths from the flu are not uncommon, but the 2011-12 season had no deaths and the year before that had six.
"It is a cause for us to remind parents to both get themselves and their children vaccinated against the flu," she said.
The number of cases are both higher and earlier than in most typical flu seasons. According to the latest figures from the MDCH, there are a total of 338 confirmed cases of the flu in the state, up from last week's total of 285. Minicuci said this doesn't represent all cases in Michigan, as there are other labs that have confirmed cases but don't report in.
"We typically don't see numbers like this until late February," she said.
She said there haven't been any reasons contributed to why there is an early outbreak, but pointed to past reports that show 13 cases of the flu at this time in the 2011-12 season.
Minicuci noted that Michigan isn't the only state seeing an increase in flu cases. The CDC reports that during the week ending on Jan. 5, 23 other states experienced high levels of flu-like illness activity.
Symptoms of the flu include fever, headaches, extreme fatigue, coughing, a runny or stuffed nose and muscle aches. "Stomach flu" symptoms include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Locally, case numbers have yet to catch up with the rest of the state and nation. William Ridella, director/health officer of the Macomb County Health Department, said as of the end of December the number of cases in the county are at normal levels. He doubts, though, that they'll remain steady.
"It's just a matter of time before the increases come to southeast Michigan," he said. "What we're seeing across the county is it's peaking early, and we expect to get some of this, too."
Ridella said the department strongly encourages people to receive the vaccine. When receiving the vaccine, he said it takes about 10 to 14 days for the body's immunity to build up. Flu season peaks in February and March.
"It's still a benefit to get a flu shot at this time," he said.
The MDCH states children less than 6 months old cannot receive a vaccine, and instead encourage those around infants to become vaccinated to protect them.
The Macomb County Department of Health provides a number of suggestions for preventing the flu alongside vaccination, such as:
• Wash one's hands frequently. The flu virus can remain active on some surfaces for up to two hours.
• Avoid sharing objects, such as cups or utensils, with others
• Drink more water
• Cover one's mouth when coughing or sneezing
• Get enough rest each night.
For information on county vaccination services, call (586) 469-5235 or visit www.macombcountymi.gov/publichealth.