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MDCH confirms first influenza cases of the season

The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) has confirmed two cases of influenza, the first identified by the state laboratory during the 2008-2009 Michigan flu season.

The illnesses occurred in a 49-year old male from Wayne County and a 5-year old child from Oakland County, neither of whom were hospitalized. One of the viruses has been confirmed as Influenza A and the other as Influenza B, according to officials at the state's public health laboratory in Lansing.

While both 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.

“Each year, we expect to see influenza cases appear in the late fall and this year is certainly no different,” said MDCH Director Janet Olszewski. “We continue to encourage all Michigan citizens to get vaccinated - it is the single best way to prevent the flu.”

Based on MDCH reports, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta will upgrade Michigan’s flu activity to “sporadic,” the lowest of four influenza activity categories the federal government tracks. Nationally, both influenza A and influenza B viruses have been seen already this season.

MDCH has a variety of enhanced 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 typically seen in Michigan by this time each season. 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, complications, and at times can lead to death. The flu is much more serious than the common cold.

Every year in the United States, on average: 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu; more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications; and about 36,000 people die from flu.

While flu is a serious disease, it can be easily prevented. MDCH strongly encourages everyone who wants to reduce their chances of becoming ill with influenza or of transmitting the flu to others to get vaccinated against influenza every year. This is especially important for those at high risk for serious flu complications, including older people, pregnant women, children who are 6 months through 18 years of age, people with certain health conditions, as well as contacts of high risk individuals - new parents, health care professionals, household members, and caregivers.

So far this year, state officials estimate that almost three million doses of flu vaccine have been shipped to Michigan and over 146 million doses will be available nationally. Health care providers should have ample supplies of vaccine and should continue to vaccinate citizens throughout the entire flu season.

Citizens can call their physician, local health department, or the American Lung Association to find nearby influenza vaccination clinics. For more information, visit: www.michigan.gov/flu





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