Flu update: Activity on the rise in time for children to return to school
The flu’s annual appearance came earlier than usual this year in Washtenaw County, as the first cases were reported in September. However, the virus did not appear to begin its wide circulation until December.
Nick Tomecek | AP Photo/Northwest Florida Daily News
In Washtenaw County, 27 patients have been hospitalized since September due to the flu virus, including eight which were admitted in the final week of December, according to the most recent data available from Washtenaw County Public Health.
At St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Superior Township, 13 patients were hospitalized with confirmed cases of the flu as of Friday, according to hospital officials.
Emergency room staff at St. Joe’s has reported an increase in patients presenting with flu-like symptoms including nausea, vomiting and dehydration after the holidays.
At the University of Michigan's University Hospital, several adult patients have been arriving to the emergency room with flu-like symptoms every day for the past week, according to hospital officials.
There have been no deaths reported to the health department to date from the flu.
Individuals often are hospitalized with the flu because of severe coughing or difficulty breathing, Monto said.
For children under the age of two years old, the flu affects them quite quickly and doesn’t take long for them to need hospitalization, Monto said.
The past two flu seasons have been relatively mild, following a pandemic season in 2009 with the arrival of H1N1. Pandemic flu is the term given to new strains of flu to which populations have not yet been exposed.
The recent mild flu activity is in part why Dr. Monto believes a widespread flu season is in store for this year.
“What is clear is that this is a more intense flu season,” Monto said.
U-M participates in a network of institutions that provide information to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in its evaluation of the vaccine’s effectiveness.
“The flu vaccine is reasonably well-matched this year,” Monto said, noting the CDC plans to update the public on the efficacy of the vaccine next week.
A recent poll indicated 71 percent of respondents had received their flu shot for this year, and an additional 5 percent planned to soon.
In the samples Monto and his team have collected from U-M Health System and Henry Ford Hospital locations, the more severe Type A H3N2 flu virus appears to be more prominent than the less severe Type B.
H3N2 typically is associated with the deaths of elderly patients, Monto said.
Nationwide from Sept. 30 to Dec. 29, 10,612 cases of the Type A H3 virus have been reported to the CDC, as well as 5,621 more general cases of Type A flu and 5,621 cases of Type B flu.
Monto said that there likely will be an increase in the deaths of older individuals from the flu this year.
Everyone should receive a flu vaccination, Monto said, though severe morbidity and mortality from the flu typically occur in young children and older adults.
Anti-viral medications are most effective in treating the flu when administered at the beginning of a patient’s symptoms, Monto said.
Courtesy Washtenaw County Public Health