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Influenza cases on rise in SW Michigan

Published 1:01pm Wednesday, December 19, 2012

With cases of influenza on the rise across Berrien County and the state, health officials are encouraging residents to get a flu shot if they haven’t already.

“It is here now,” said Rick Johansen, medical director of Berrien County Health Dept. “Almost always when it starts up-ticking like this it will continue to rise and build.”

Johansen said his Benton Harbor office noticed an increase of flu cases last week after a mild November.

“We are noticing more cases,” he said.

Jennie Stocks, director of nursing at Lakeland Community Hospitals in Niles, said she’s seen about a 10 percent increase in flu cases in the Niles area last week.

“I think we are starting to see it move into Michigan,” she said.

Michigan’s flu activity has gone from sporadic, to localized, to regional over a period of three weeks stretching from Nov. 24 to Dec. 8, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Johansen said the United States is experiencing the earliest flu season since 2003-04.

Most years, he said, the flu doesn’t hit Southwest Michigan until late February or early March.

“Every so often, it hits before Christmas school break,” Johansen said. “The last time it hit like this was in 2003, 2004.”

Stocks and Johansen recommended those who haven’t gotten a flu shot yet to get one now.

“It’s here, so now would be a wake-up call — it’s not too late to get one,” Johansen said.

How do you know if you have the flu?

The only way to know for sure is to be tested, but Stocks said people could have one or more of the following symptoms: fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. The flu is caused by influenza viruses, which infect the respiratory tract.

“It can last from one to three weeks, depending on how you take care of yourself,” she said.

To fight the flu, Stocks recommends drinking plenty of fluids, getting lots of rest and taking medication to ward of symptoms.

She said to seek medical help if you experience trouble breathing, fever with a rash, pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion and symptoms that get better and then come back worse.

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