Flu cases rising in Lenawee County
Reported cases of respiratory influenza are on the rise. “We have seen an increase in the number of flu cases in Lenawee County,” said Lenawee County Health Officer Patsy Bourgeois. “There were 39 lab-confirmed cases last week of Influenza A and H1N1. Influenza activity for Michigan was increased from regional to widespread.”There has been one death from the H1N1 flu virus in Lenawee County. It was a man in his mid-50s who did have some other health issues, according to Bourgeois.The flu season runs every year from October to May, peaking in January and February. This year there has been a change in the people affected by the flu.“The flu that we see is disproportionately targeting the middle-aged instead of young or elderly,” Bourgeois said. “It has to do with the way the virus acts when it hits the middle-aged body.”Across the country, 61 percent of 3,745 people hospitalized for the flu are adults between the ages of 18 and 64. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) notes the pattern in hospitalization of younger people is similar to the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.Older people were likely exposed to H1N1 in their youth and have developed immunity to the virus. Adults without an immunity can get a vaccination to provide a stronger immunity to the flu viruses, including the H1N1 virus.“It’s not too late to get the vaccinations,” said Bourgeois. “You still get ample protection. The one that’s hitting now, H1N1, is covered.”Often people avoid getting the flu vaccine because of fear the vaccine will cause the flu. The CDC addresses these misconceptions on its website, www.cdc.gov/flu.The organization states a flu shot will not cause a person to contract the flu because the vaccine is made with inactive flu viruses or with no flu vaccine viruses at all. The nasal spray vaccine does contain live flu viruses, but they are weakened to the point where they cannot cause illness, being designed to only cause mild infection in the cooler parts of the body like the nose.Nasal spray viruses cannot infect the lungs or other warmer places in the body. One flu shot per year is enough to protect a person from getting sick for the entire flu season.The CDC states, “Serious allergic reactions to flu vaccines are very rare. If they do occur, it is usually within a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination. While these reactions can be life-threatening, effective treatments are available.”For those who know someone who had a seasonal flu vaccine and got sick with flu-like symptoms, there are several reasons why this occurred. According to the CDC, rhinoviruses like the common cold have similar symptoms but are different viruses and not protected by vaccinations.Another reason is exposure to an influenza virus before vaccination or during the two-week period after vaccination while immunity is building. Another possibility is becoming infected with a flu virus not found in the vaccination, or because a person’s immune system is so weak it cannot fight off the flu even with a vaccination.Bourgeois also explains that any illness with vomiting or diarrhea is not influenza, it is a gastro-intestinal virus. “When we talk about the flu, it’s respiratory,” she said.It is important and easy to protect against the flu. Wash hands frequently and thoroughly. Cough into an elbow, not into hands.“Basically take good care of yourself,” said Bourgeois. “Eat right and get enough sleep. We are very pro-vaccine because it prevents illness. This year people are dying from the flu. We are way overdue for a flu pandemic.”Flu vaccines are available at pharmacies, doctors’ offices and at the Lenawee County Health Department. A flu clinic at the Lenawee County Health Department is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 30, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.There is a cost for the shot, and those with Medicaid and Medicare insurance can have the cost billed directly to insurance. Those with private insurance can pay for the vaccine and then submit it to the insurance company for reimbursement.“There are plenty of vaccines to go around,” said Bourgeois, and added that there is no residency requirement to receive the vaccine. The Health Department prefers appointments be made for the flu clinics, although they may be able to accommodate walk-in patients. Those interested should call 264.5226 and select option 2 to make an appointment.