Share

Flu cases surge: Here’s what you need to know to stay healthy

CLOSE

Self-care is important for keeping your spirits up and your body healthy. But even if your self-care routine has gone by the wayside, it’s never too late to start, especially if you come down with the flu.
Buzz60

After last year’s whopper of a flu season — when flu-associated deaths rose to an estimated 79,000 Americans, of which 185 were children — health officials are carefully watching to see what happens this year. 

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is reporting an uptick in flu activity, and urges anyone older than 6 months to get vaccinated. 

This comes as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared that the 2018-19 flu season is officially underway and confirmed the death of the first Michigan child to the flu this season. Nationally, 11 children have died this season of flu-associated illness. 

In the week ending Dec. 22, the percentage of people seeking medical care for flu-like illnesses rose to 3.2 percent in Michigan, according to the state MDHHS, continuing a trend of steady increases in the last several weeks. The baseline for flu activity in Michigan is 1.8 percent.

“It’s a little hard to tell this early on how bad of a flu season it’s going to be because it’s usually late January or early February when we reach the peak for the flu,” said Bob Wheaton, a spokesman for the MDHHS. “Before that, it’s a little hard to tell. We don’t know what it’s going to be like the rest of the flu season.”

Here are some questions and answers about what you ought to know about the flu:

Is it too late to get a flu shot? 

No, it’s not too late.

“We still are encouraging people to get their flu vaccinations,” Wheaton said. “It’s still relatively early in the flu season and there’s a good chance of an uptick in terms of flu activity in January and February.”

The flu shot reduces the likelihood of contracting the virus. For those who still get the flu even after having been vaccinated, it has been shown to reduce the severity and duration of the illness. 

But because it takes about two weeks for your body to build immunity and get protection from the shot, health officials advise people to get vaccinated quickly. 

Are hospitals restricting visitors to limit the spread of the flu?

Yes. To slow the transmission of the flu, the Detroit Medical Center no longer allows visits from children under the age of 12 in the inpatient and observation rooms at any of its locations, which include:

  • Children’s Hospital of Michigan locations in Troy and Detroit
  • Detroit Receiving Hospital
  • Harper University Hospital
  • DMC Heart Hospital
  • Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital
  • Hutzel Womens Hospital
  • The Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan
  • Sinai-Grace Hospital

Only two visitors will be allowed to visit patients at any time in DMC facilities, and anyone with a sore threat, runny nose, muscle aches, fever, cough, sneezing or chills will not be allowed to visit patients. 

More: What’s in the flu shot? Michigan strain in vaccine cocktail

More: Everything you need to know about the flu

Beaumont, St. Joseph Mercy, Ascension and the University of Michigan health systems have not yet changed visitor requirements to prevent the spread of flu this season.

The Henry Ford Health System prohibits visitors 12 and younger to its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Henry Ford Hospital to better protect vulnerable newborns. 

What are the symptoms of the flu? 

The flu is different from a cold. Symptoms often come on suddenly and people report feeling some or all of all of the following symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 

  • Fever 
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea and vomiting

How long is the flu contagious? 

The CDC reports that people with the flu are most contagious within three to four days after they begin to feel sick. Some people can be contagious up to a full day before they become symptomatic and up to a full week afterward. 

Some people, especially those with weak immune systems, might be able to infect others with flu viruses for an even longer time.

What strain of the flu is most common now in Michigan? 

The state Department of Health and Human services reports that Influenza A/H1N1 is the predominant strain being seen in Michigan, especially in the southeastern and southwestern regions of the state.  

Some cases of Influenza A/H3 and Influenza B have also been reported. 

How can I keep myself healthy during flu season?

“The big thing is that we’re still urging people to get vaccinated,” Wheaton said. “We don’t want people to think it’s too late. … You can still get vaccinated and hopefully prevent yourself or your children from getting influenza.”

In addition, Wheaton suggests:

  • Avoiding close contact with people who are ill
  • Washing your hands often to reduce the spread of germs
  • Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
  • Washing your hands frequently with soap or water
  • Avoiding touching your hands to your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects that could be contaminated with germs
  • Staying home from work or school if you are sick to avoid spreading the flu to others 
  • Seeing a doctor quickly after becoming ill for prescription antiviral drugs that can reduce the severity and duration of the illness. 

“If you have flu-like illness, the CDC says you should stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever has gone down except to get medical care,” he said.  

Vaccines are especially important for people who are at increased risk for the flu, which includes children and adults ages 65 or older, people with underlying medical conditions and pregnant women, he said.  

Contact Kristen Jordan Shamus: 313-222-5997 or kshamus@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @kristenshamus. 

CLOSE

A Michigan child from Osceola County died after being infected with influenza A.
WZZM-TV (Grand Rapids), Detroit Free Press