Flu cases in Michigan highest in recent years

By COLTON WOOD
Capital News Service

LANSING — The flu season is in full effect, and this year it’s reaching more of the population than usual.

According to the state Department of Health and Human Services, 45,521 patients have been treated for influenza over the last four weeks.

“In Michigan, we are seeing a lot more cases, hearing about a lot more cases of the flu through our surveillance systems,” said Lynn Sutfin, a department press officer.

“It’s not unusual that the season starts to revamp after the holidays — people come back to work, come back to school. They’re getting into these congregate settings where there’s a bunch of people in one area, so that’s how that spreads,” Sutfin said.

Last year 420,603 people were diagnosed with the flu in Michigan, and that number is continuing to rise each year.

In 2014, there were 288,807 reported cases. In 2015, that number increased, topping 305,000. In 2016, the number jumped by almost 30,000 to 335,599.

While the flu season has commenced, Sutfin said it’s not too late to get the flu vaccine.

“Any protection is better than none,” she said. “The flu vaccine is your best defense from the flu.

“My other tip is — if you’re sick, stay home. Do not spread the germs to others. I know everybody’s busy, but the best thing you can do to take care of yourself and others is to stay home and get rest.”

Sam McCoy was one of the thousands of people to be treated with the flu this season.

“I had bad symptoms for three days — really sore throat, headache, fatigue and congestion,” she recalled. “Then I saw the doctor after two days. They prescribed me with Tamiflu. From them, my symptoms got a lot better, but my sore throat lingered for about a week.”

Aislynn Stocks, a combat medic in the Army National Guard and a licensed EMT, said it’s vital to avoid contact with those who are sick and to get rest when sick.

“If you see someone who is sick, you should always avoid contact with them,” she said. “You need to ensure you are practicing good health habits, especially eating well, getting enough sleep and drinking adequate amounts of fluids.

Sutfin said she believes the arrival of the H3N2 virus is the predominant reason that is spreading to more people than usual this season.

“Every flu season is different,” she said. “This season is one that is being dominating by the H3N2 virus, which is a more severe form of the flu, so when you get that virus, and that virus is more predominant, you obviously see a lot more cases, a lot more hospitalizations, a lot more people getting sick.”

As of the latest weekly influenza surveillance report, which was published on Jan. 19, no pediatric deaths have been confirmed to Health and Human Services during the 2017-18 flu season. However, 30 influenza-associated pediatric deaths have been reported across the nation.

If you start to feel sick, Sutfin stresses the importance of staying at home, getting rest and seeking medical treatment if needed.

“Obviously, when you get the flu, you’re going to have body aches,” she said. “You’re going to have a fever, upper-respiratory issues, possibly some stomach issues. In most cases, you’ll feel better in a few days. People know their own bodies, so if you’re not feeling well, if this is the worst you’ve ever felt, go to your doctor.”