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Posted on Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Flu season: Activity beginning to increase; peak may be earlier than usual

By Amy Biolchini

Though reports of flu cases surfaced earlier than usual this year, the illness has been kept at bay until this week, according to health officials.

Both the Michigan Department of Community Health and Washtenaw County Public Health affirmed the incidence of flu cases are beginning to increase this week.


Health officials state it's never too late in the flu season to receive a flu shot.

Lon Horwedel |

Typically the peak of flu season is January and February, said Susan Ringler-Cerniglia, public information officer for Washtenaw County Public Health.

Because flu season began earlier this year in September, Ringler-Cerniglia said the peak of flu season also may be earlier than normal.

Michigan hasn’t seen flu cases at the high levels that five southern states reported in the last week of November. As of Tuesday, 26 confirmed cases of the flu have been reported in Michigan.

About one-third of Americans are vaccinated against the flu, the Associated Press reported.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated this year’s flu vaccine will be a good match for the strains of flu that have been reported thus far, Ringler-Cerniglia said.

The vaccine contains two strains of influenza Type A virus, including H1N1, which caused pandemic flu in 2009, and one strain of influenza Type B. The CDC reformulates the vaccine each year, and attempts to predict which strains will be dominant.

Ringler-Cerniglia said that both A and B strains of the flu have been identified locally, but it’s unclear which will predominate the area.

“We have no supply issues this year for the vaccine,” Ringler-Cerniglia said of the health department.

However, as pharmacies and chain grocery stores increasingly have been providing flu shots to customers, Ringler-Cerniglia said the demand for flu shots from the public health department has decreased.

Last year was a mild flu season in Washtenaw County.

The Michigan Visiting Care Nurses program has administered 16,000 flu shots at 315 clinics so far this year in Washtenaw County and across Michigan. The program has two more non-public flu shot events scheduled and is almost out of its supply of vaccine.

In 2005, Michigan Visiting Care Nurses administered about 21,000 to 22,000 flu shots, said Tracy Newhouse, program manager.

“Every year, it’s gone down because more and more pharmacies are providing the vaccine,” Newhouse said. “It reduces my business, but is good from a public health standpoint.”

The Michigan Visiting Care Nurses program is a department in the University of Michigan Health System and provides flu shot clinics for the public, at senior centers and at corporate sites.

As soon as the organization received their shipment of vaccine in September, they began administering shots at flu clinics a month earlier than normal.

“The CDC now recommends providers begin immunizing as soon as they receive a supply of flu vaccine,” Newhouse said. “The vaccine has been shipped out earlier in the past three years than before and it causes providers to start vaccinating earlier.”

Newhouse said the earlier wave of flu clinics the program conducted this year likely will stick. Previously, the program would provide shots at clinics from October to December.

“It’s kind of good that people have gotten vaccinated early,” Newhouse said, stating she doesn’t think this year’s flu season pattern in Michigan has any correlation with flu shot clinics starting earlier.


Lab-confirmed flu cases in Washtenaw County are shown in the blue line. The incidence of the illness is beginning to increase locally.

Courtesy Washtenaw County Public Health

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.



Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 7:47 a.m.

It's somewhat embarrassing to see discussion of 'the vaccine conspiracy' in the same city as the U. Please, don't avoid vaccination for yourself or family members if you're a member of the 'at risk' population - don't let 'THEM' scare you out of treatment or preventative care if your general practitioner recommends it!


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 12:23 a.m.

Tell me about your experience with your autistic child and I will tell you about mine. Ha!


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 4:21 p.m.

The site you cited in this instance not only seems to function as a referral point for homeopathic medicine, but also perpetuates the terrible myth that vaccines are somehow responsible for autism (which, in case anyone missed the controversy reappearing, was proven to be completely spurious). Anecdotal evidence, such as that offered on the front page of this site, does little good for scientific research, and such scientific research should remain the only basis for medicine. There is a lot to disagree with on this site, but this hardly seems an appropriate venue for any in-depth analysis. In any case, though, if you find yourself concerned over these issues, please do consult your physician or your pharmacist, they have not only an obligation but generally even a drive to help you to understand your needs and any risks associated with them.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.

What is "embarrassing", or should I say criminal, that patients are not informed of possible severe reactions of the flu shot.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 9:14 p.m.

Hey everyone! I found instructions on how to make your own flu shot.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 8:01 p.m.

the last time I got the flu was the last time I got the flu shot ... the flu came 2 weeks after the shot ?? that has to be about 5-6 yrs ago now. not really interested in getting a flu shot that gives me the flu anymore.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 10:25 p.m.

Yes, there is a time gap between getting the vaccine and having the vaccine be effective. I've heard it could even be 3 weeks. The vaccine doesn't give the disease. The vaccine is attenuated and not a live dosage, as the nasal spray substitute for the vaccine is. People with immunity problems should get the vaccine and not the nasal spray.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 9:13 p.m.

Or the flu. The protection may not have kicked in before you were infected, or you may have had a case of influenza from a strain not covered by the vaccination. Or you may have had the matching vaccination in time, but it just didn't work. Even under ideal circumstances, it "only" is effective about 90% of the time (as I recall).


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 8:53 p.m.

Exactly 2 weeks?! You were diagnosed by a licensed physician with the flu? The vaccine takes AROUND 2 weeks to become effective. I suggest you might have had just a nasty cold.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 5:24 p.m.

I received my flu vaccine at St. Joe's Hospital as an inpatient months ago. Recently, I received a call from them, explaining to me that I would have to be re-vaccinated, as the serum was not refrigerated properly. I received the vaccine MONTHS ago, and they're telling me now?!!! I was also told that my PCP would be contacted, so that there would be no additional charge for the second vaccine I would need to receive in order to be protected. I received my shot from my UofM PCP. St. Joe's did NOT call them! My physician's office wants to bill me for the new vaccine. (St. Joe's was already paid through Medicare.) This is incompetence, pure and simple. It also looks as if a cover-up was involved. Has anyone else here had this problem? The entire lot was affected. Oh. and You bring up the flu issue every year, as the immunization is controversial and generates tons of hits. I don't respect you for that.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 9:06 p.m.

There are other reasons, other than "living under a rock," why a reader on might benefit from an annual story/reminder of the availability and advisability of the influenza vaccine. Just a few that come to mind are: 1) Ignorance of prudent personal and public health measures is pretty rampant; 2) At some point in almost every person's life, they have to decide for themselves (vs. having a parent decide for them) whether or not they will get an influenza vaccination and it may not have occurred to them in the past that it was a matter they had to consider; 3) Immigrants from a country in which vaccinations against influenza are either not available, or not as widely available, might find it surprising and helpful to learn of the influenza vaccination; 4) Some people just need reminders. None of the above examples are of people "living under a rock." I vote in favor of more information, not less, particularly when it can save lives.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 8:50 p.m.

The flu season happens EVERY year. The flu vaccine is available every year. Unless someone has been living under a rock, they are aware of this issue. Now, if something changed...e.g. a new strain showed up with no vaccination, then I say, report that! I challenge you to investigate the problem with the vaccines at St. Joe's this year. That is a new twist on this story.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 7:57 p.m.

"Oh. and You bring up the flu issue every year, as the immunization is controversial and generates tons of hits. I don't respect you for that." And why wouldn't they bring it up every year? Influenza vaccination is an ongoing and important personal and public health measure, every year. And your statement seems to assume that you think their readership is static, that there couldn't be someone reading this year that never read it before. Highly unlikely. I don't know how many hits the story has received so far but, as of now, only 10 comments in 9 hours. That's not all that many.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 5:15 p.m.

The Swine Flu Scare of 1976 started all this mish-mash of panic/skepticism. In fact, Swine Flu was a new and virulent strain but a pandemic was prevented because of military controls at one Army base where the outbreak began. One soldier died, others infected suffered severe symptom - but the public impression was that there was an attempt by government to scare everyone because the general population didn't experience any problems and the vigorous government effort to provide vaccine to everyone turned out to be unnecessary. "Ordinary flu" kills thousands of kids and older adults every year - somewhere around the world. Just because flu deaths aren't prevalent here - DUE TO yearly vaccination programs - doesn't mean we can do without an efficacious flu vaccination program. Even healthy adults can get sick enough to stay home from work - for that majority, it's a matter of lost income - a pragmatic consideration. The U.S. Health Care System has it's problems but $25 flu shots isn't one of them! Thanks, Ms. Biolchini and AnnArbordotcom, for trying to keep us informed on a legitimate topic.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 5:14 p.m.

Flu season is to be dreaded primarily due to articles like this hogwash.

Rork Kuick

Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 4:10 p.m.

All is well if you don't mind increasing the chances you will cause sickness or even death in others. For a compendium of popular fallacious reasons to talk yourself out of helping, and instead being part of the problem, I suggest this classic:


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 9:29 p.m.

"All is well if you don't mind increasing the chances you will cause sickness or even death in others." That is if it is actually truth that flu shot prevents flu. I have never had the flu and I have never and will never get a flu shot. It's like playing Russian rullet.

Rork Kuick

Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 7:53 p.m.

Do you think "increases the chances" is the same as "will absolutely cause"? Drunk driving will not absolutely cause you to kill others - is it OK then? Of course not. "Flu vaccination does not prevent someone from getting the flu' - do you mean it doesn't help, or are you merely saying it's not 100% protective? Or are you offering a second false dichotomy where not 100% effective proves "not useful"?


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 4:46 p.m.

The fallacious argument is that of stating that refusing vaccination will absolutely cause sickness and death in others. Flu vaccination does not prevent someone from getting the flu. Truly healthy people living healthily, don't get ill from the flu and don't pass the flu on to others. Vaccines contain unhealthy chemicals are not FOOL proof. Support the organic food industry, not big pharma.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 2:35 p.m.

Funny, I work at UMMC and haven't seen hide nor hair of the flu. The CDC have exagerated in the past and support big pharma. I'd just live healthily and leave the fear at the door. All is well.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 1:03 p.m.

The facts: Educate yourself. Don't believe everything "they" say.


Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 2:31 a.m.

Thanks HS. ; )

Homeland Conspiracy

Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 8:35 p.m.

Nailed it!

Homeland Conspiracy

Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 12:40 p.m.

"The Sky Is Falling" "The Sky Is Falling" "The Sky Is Falling" I wonder what animal flu "they" will scare the sheeple with this time? Dog Flu, Cat Flu or Goldfish Flu What's a little flu with the world ending Dec 21 2012...


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 8 p.m.

Yeah, the world is ending 12/21/12. I'd invest in asbestos futures but, well, you know...


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 7:49 p.m.

The genome of the influenza viruses is packaged in segments. When an animal is susceptible to, and infected by multiple types of flu viruses, these genome segments can shuffle between the multiple virus types like a deck of cards. For example, a pig is susceptible to multiple flu types. If an infected pig (swine flu) associates with a sick bird (avian flu), their genomes can shuffle and sometimes make a new virus type that now allows the swine, or avian, flu to infect new hosts....sometimes us. Hence, the "animal flu" names associated with them.