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Posted on Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Flu update: Activity on the rise in time for children to return to school

By Amy Biolchini

Cases of the flu have been spiking within the past two weeks both locally and nationally as health professionals continue to urge those who have not yet been vaccinated to do so.

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.


Melissa Roberts, left, administers a flu vaccine Dec. 20 to Kelly Ternes at the Okaloosa County Health Department in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. Health officials recommend every individual receive a flu vaccine.

Nick Tomecek | AP Photo/Northwest Florida Daily News

Dr. Arnold Monto, professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health, said flu activity’s increase in the past several weeks in Washtenaw County has been significant, which is notable because school has not been in session.

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.


Dr. Arnold Monto

Courtesy U-M

Adults who are hospitalized with the flu often have other chronic respiratory diseases that are exasperated by the illness, 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.


Confirmed cases of flu in Washtenaw County are represented by the blue line.

Courtesy Washtenaw County Public Health

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



Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 10:02 p.m.

We happen to know Dr. Monto personally--and we also know that his integrity s unquestionable. As a very healthy individual who hardly ever gets even a cold, I became a devotee of the flu shot about 15 years ago after a serious bout of influenza. We were heading to Florida for the holidays and I figured that I would get better in the warmth and under the sun. Instead, I got worse. Finally, I was convinced to see a physician there who immediately gave me a shot of antibiotic and informed me that I was a day away from having to be hospitalized! I remember very clearly his words: "people don't usually die from the flu, they die from the complications of the flu" (usually pneumonia.) Since then, I have faithfully taken the flu shot each year knowing full well that nothing is 100% perfect and that all the strains are not always covered.


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 1:43 a.m.

Faithfully buying into propaganda. Never had one and never will. anti government propaganda is all this is.

dirty irish

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 9:24 p.m.

as a medical professional on the front lines taking care of children with respiratory illnesses, i find many of the comments on this site offensive. @Nadie, you are welcome to your opinion, but know that it is simply that, an opinion. within the last several weeks, several previously healthy children have died from influenza. none of whom had had the flu shot. many others are requiring mechanical ventilation to support them, and several others ECMO (lung and/or heart,lung bypass). these are not meant to be scare tactics and i don't represent "big pharmacology". i take care of sick children and this is the truth that i witness everyday.

Jake C

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 6 p.m.

It is true that getting the seasonal flu vaccine can't guarantee you won't get influenza. That's because influenza is a whole family of diseases with common symptoms that mutate on a regular basis, with 2-3 variations of influenza being the most common in any given year. But there are always a dozen or so variants that may not be included in the seasonal flu vaccine. In my opinion, complaining that you could get the flu vaccine and still catch the flu is like having a $20 (no insurance required) cancer vaccine that protects against breast cancer, brain cancer, and leukemia, but it might not protect you against pancreatic cancer or prostate cancer in any given year. No it's not perfect, but hey - it's a $20 shot that prevents tens of thousands of deaths per year. Yes, influenza can and does still kill lots and lots of people, so get yourself vaccinated unless you have a good medical reason not to.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 6:14 p.m.

"it's a $20 shot that prevents tens of thousands of deaths per year" Not true. I wouldn't get a flu shot if you paid me. It certainly isn't about the cost. It is about the side effects.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 6:13 p.m.

@Jake C, nice analogy on the cancer vaccine. And, actually, it may not be far off. Evidence is accumulating that one important factor that increases the risk of developing some cancers, as well as cardiovascular diseases, is the occurrence of inflammation in the body. For anyone who has had influenza, they know that that is one bodywide inflammation to be sure. So, a vaccine to reduce one's risk of influenza may very well in the long term reduce one's risk of developing cancer or cardiovascular disease. As far as I know, this has not been examined specifically, but it is plausible.

Homeland Conspiracy

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 4:33 p.m.

Little germ factorys!!!


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 4:13 p.m.

I never received the yearly influenza vaccine until I became sick with influenza. Miserable illness that took a long time to get over and I had a high fever and coughed until I felt like I was going to pass out. (Not kidding!) Now I get my influenza vaccine almost every season.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 3:39 p.m.

Never had the flu, have not been sick since I can remember and to me? Flu shot is just another government hullabloo. No guarantee you will or will not get the flu. You get it? You get. Enjoy the day off.


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 1:41 a.m.

I have not had the flu since I can remember when. If you take better care of yourselves maybe you would have stronger immune systems. Need to get off the flu shot kick and make your immune system work not the government. O thats right. nobama care will take care of you. Not.

Ann English

Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 1:05 a.m.

The more of us who get vaccinated against the flu, the more protected the unvaccinated around us will be. If you have had a bad reaction to flu shots before, at least encourage everyone around you to get immunized; that will help protect you from influenza.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 5:08 p.m.

@jns You think the flu lasts for only a day?! The common cold lasts longer than that. I almost died of the flu in my 30s, before the vaccine was available. It is a miserable illness, and it can and does kill susceptible individuals.

Laura Jones

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 4:15 p.m.

Trust me, no one with the flu "enjoys" the day off.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 3:19 p.m.

From the article, "Adults who are hospitalized with the flu often have other chronic respiratory diseases that are exasperated by the illness, Monto said." While I expect it is exasperating to have influenza with other chronic respiratory disease, I am fairly confident Dr. Monto actually used the word "exacerbated," not exasperated. Here is a link from the CDC published on Friday discussing the nationwide activity of influenza: And a link from the CDC (primarily oriented toward clinicians) discussing use of the antiviral medications:


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 3:14 p.m.

"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." PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE - revise this article to explain that stomach flu and influenza are completely different medical conditions. The "flu shot" is only effective against the respiratory flu aka influenza. There is no vaccine for stomach flu, which includes the symptoms quoted above. Influenza is a respiratory virus, that can be dangerous for the very young, very old and people with other medical conditions. I continue to be surprised by the number of people who do not understand this distinction. It is important to know, especially for people caring for children, the elderly, and those with other medical conditions. In addition, many local physicians could be consulted for this article who do not have a financial conflict of interest who will recommend getting immunized against influenza annually.


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 2:38 a.m.

Right, and even the word flu is a misnomer. Intestinal virus, or more specifically could be norovirus.

Ann English

Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 12:21 a.m.

Sounds like intestinal flu to me. I think intestinal flu can be passed to adults by children; when a niece and nephew lived with me, two Decembers in a row I caught intestinal flu. After they moved out, I never caught intestinal flu again.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 2:16 p.m.

I love the debate on vaccines. All the debates that occur in this country are between the educated and the non-educated, the ignorant and the informed. I'm not saying that everyone is on the same side in every debate, but those are always the two sides. To those who don't get vaccines because the government is tracking you or that they don't work, good for you, evolution will soon weed out that way of thinking. I wondering if your "Big Pharma Conspiracy" also pertains to your blood pressure, heartburn and ED pills?


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 12:33 a.m.

"See profile picture"


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 6:08 p.m.

"Take a science class and then we can have an intelligent conversation." Ha! No big assumptions or arrogance there!


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 2:01 p.m.

"It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so" -Mark Twain. Take a science class and then we can have an intelligent conversation. I am a compassionate person, ask my wife and my friends. My comment was that nature shows no compassion.


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 7:27 a.m.

@ Nadine Um, yes, yes we are healthier due to progress. Polio? Small pox? TB? How about clean drinking water? Anyone you know gotten Cholera lately? The flu shot is to HELP not to promise 100% that you'll never get sick. And with everything not 100% of the population can have it. People can be allergic to it. I've gotten one every year and once I got the flu and I was very sick. I still got another shot the next year and was fine.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 6:36 p.m.

My comment was not so much directed at you Nadie, but instead addressing the tone of teeters' post. Thanks for the downvote anyway, I guess.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 6:11 p.m.

It is definately not gloating over the suffering and death. It makes me very sad. I see hospitals getting bigger, drug stores on every corner, 4 page ads in magazines for drugs, signs all over advertising flu shots, commercials on tv advertising drugs. Are we healthier because of this "progress". I don't think so.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 5:52 p.m.

"good for you" Ugh. This type of casual gloating over the prospective suffering and death of another human just because happen to hold a different opinion than yours is distressingly arrogant and uncompassionate. Very sad.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 5:25 p.m.

True. There are those who educate themselves and there are those who do as they are told without questioning. And yes, there are alternatives to 'pills' that do no harm, that have no side effects, that improve health. Those things are not advertised on tv like the medications. They are not pulling in billions of dollars and paying off politicians...

Rork Kuick

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 1:42 p.m. polls are entertainments at best. Mentioning them as evidence of anything is really disappointing to see.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 2:10 p.m.

Actually the evidence is the harm flu shots cause. The sad thing is the harm is not reported by the doctors often enough. They know who puts the bread on the table.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 12:31 p.m.

"A recent poll indicated 71 percent of respondents had received their flu shot for this year, and an additional 5 percent planned to soon." There were only 418 responding to this poll. If I had, I would have said that I am not getting the flu shot. Scary stuff. I just met a lady yesterday. The day she got her flu shot, her arm swelled up, she has been very sick for 5 months, a bronchitis that would not go away. She looked very pale.


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 7:23 a.m.

I highly doubt that getting a flu show caused this lady to get bronchitis. And, yes, some people do have reactions to shots. And a vast majority do not. They tell you this when you get a flu shot. Stop trying to use scare tactics.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 12:24 p.m.

Couldn't we, at least, mention in this article, that Dr. Monto also has some other "qualifications" to be pushing for the sale of more and more vaccines? " Dr. Arnold Monto, who also appears as invited expert on SAGE's member list is a paid consultant in firms MedImmune, which produces inhalable flu vaccine, Glaxo Wellcome and ViroPharma. SAGE 's list says he is only listed as the head of a department at the University of Michigan."

Jake C

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 6:28 p.m.

It is possible to be a paid consultant for an industry and still be a reputable person. Would you have the same reaction to an automotive engineering professor at U of M who consults with auto-makers to help produce safer vehicles and educate the public on propler use of seat belts and infant carseats? It seems like some people have a knee-jerk reaction to anything involving the pharmeceutical industry...


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 1:26 p.m.

.....I did some research. Makes me angry.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 1:15 p.m.

Great link! Greed! I always wonder how much Dr. Nancy Sniderman of the Today show gets paid by Big Pharma. She is so hateful when she speaks about people who don't get vaccinated.

Tom Todd

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 11:28 a.m.

is this years vaccine having the opposite effect?