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Health Officials Confirm First Flu Cases in Michigan

Flu shots are still available in locations around Livingston County, including Brighton and Hartland.

Health Officials Confirm First Flu Cases in Michigan

State health officials confirmed 12 cases of influenza, the first to be identified during the 2012-2013 flu season, earlier this week.

The illnesses occurred in both children and adults in lower Michigan, with at least two people hospitalized, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH)

Nine cases have been confirmed as influenza B viruses, two as influenza A (H3N2) virus, and one as influenza A (H1N1) 2009 virus.

While influenza A and B viruses have now been confirmed in Michigan, it is too early to tell what influenza viruses will circulate during this influenza season or how severe the influenza season may be.

Because the virus changes every year, so does the vaccine. This year, the vaccine protects against three different influenza viruses that are expected to be the most prevalent this season.

"The CDC has been very, very accurate in predicting which strains are going to cause the greatest morbidity and mortality every year," Donald Lawrenchuk, medical director of the Livingston County Department of Public Health told Patch. "So those are the strains being protected in this year's vaccine, which is different from last year's vaccine and all of the previous years as well."

Based on MDCH reports, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta will report Michigan's flu activity to "sporadic," the lowest of four influenza activity categories the federal government tracks. MDCH has a variety of systems in place to detect influenza, including a network of clinicians and hospital emergency departments throughout the state that report persons with flu-like illness, laboratories that refer positive test results for influenza, and school-based absenteeism reporting.

Sporadic flu cases are often seen in Michigan in the fall. Activity typically peaks in late January through February, but can sometimes peak earlier or later, depending on the strain of flu and severity of the season.

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Between 1976 and 2007, national estimates of flu-associated deaths ranged from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people. The flu is more serious than the common cold but can be easily prevented. The CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine as the best way to protect against influenza and will protect residents during the duration of flu season.

The composition of the flu vaccine is determined each year. The 2012-2013 flu vaccine will protect against influenza A (H1N1) 2009 virus, influenza A (H3N2) virus, and influenza B virus. MDCH and the CDC recommend that everyone 6 months of age and older receive an annual flu vaccine. Vaccination is especially important for those at high-risk for serious flu complications, including older people, pregnant women, children who are 6 months and older, people with certain health conditions, as well as contacts of high risk individuals such as new parents, health care professionals, household members, and caregivers.

Vaccination is occurring now and will continue throughout the entire flu season.

The flu shot is available at the Livingston County Department of Public Health, which is located at 2300 East Grand River Ave. in Howell. While they accept walk-ins, Lawrenchuk recommends calling the health department at 517-546-9850 to ensure you will be seen.

Vaccinations are also available through physician's offices as well as through local pharmacies. For a complete list of locations, visit flushot.healthmap.org. For more information, visit www.michigan.gov/flu.

Source: MDCH press release

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