Flu season ramping up

Published 7:44 am Friday, January 3, 2014

As cases of the flu continue to rise in Michigan, the state’s Department of Community Health last week upgraded the level of flu activity in the state from “local” to “regional.”

Rick Johansen, medical director of the Berrien, Cass and Van Buren county health departments, said southeastern Michigan has seen the most instances of flu so far.

“Unlike last year, where southwestern Michigan led the way for the state of Michigan as the first area hit, this year southeastern Michigan is the area that has seen the uptick first,” he said. “We haven’t seen a big jump yet here in southwest Michigan. We will know a lot more next week when we get a report of school absentees. That’s a good indication for us.”

Johansen predicts the flu will hit southwest Michigan sometime within the next couple weeks, meaning there’s still time for people to get a flu shot.

“The key message here is it’s not too late,” he said. “The strains that are circulating in Michigan are all covered by this vaccine. The vaccine is still effective and there still is time.”

Forty-five people have been hospitalized for the flu statewide as of Dec. 21, according to data compiled by the MDCH. Labs have also confirmed 122 positive flu cases this year. Of those, 111 were identified as the H1N1 strain, which was originally referred to as “swine flu” when it was first detected in 2009.

“That (H1N1) is still circulating and there is protection for it in the vaccine,” Johansen said. “That is the leader so far in southeastern Michigan and in many, but not all, parts of the United States.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control is reporting an increase of flu activity nationally with the hardest hit states in the south, including Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.