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Posted on Mon, Mar 7, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Washtenaw County man in his 60s dies of influenza, Health Department reports

By Juliana Keeping

A county man in his 60s has died after contracting the flu, Washtenaw County Health Department officials said Friday.

His is the first reported local influenza death this flu season.

The Health Department can’t release details on the death, except to say that it occurred in recent weeks and that the man had severe underlying disease, Public Health epidemiologist Laura Bauman said.

“All forms of influenza can cause hospitalization, but the most severe types have been A,” Bauman said.

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It's not too late to get the influenza vaccine.

H1N1, a strain of influenza A that first appeared in 2009 when it was dubbed the swine flu, is still circulating. Strains of influenza A and influenza B also have been identified.

Sixty four individuals have been hospitalized with the flu in Washtenaw County since Oct. 1, Bauman said, with about 47 of the hospitalizations occurring since Feb. 1.

“One to two hospitalizations for the flu are being reported every day,” Bauman said.

Of the 54 hospitalized individuals whose vaccine status was known, 65 percent did not have the seasonal flu vaccine. Forty three percent of individuals hospitalized were obese, compared to 18 percent in Washtenaw County's population, Bauman said. And three individuals hospitalized were pregnant women. The flu puts pregnant women and the babies they carry at an elevated risk for severe illness and death, Bauman said.

The hospitalized individuals have ranged in age from 3 weeks to 90 years old, but most have been between 18 and 64 years old.

Bauman said it’s not too late to get the vaccination.

In 2010, the CDC recommended everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine as it becomes available, a more comprehensive recommendation than in years past, health department officials said.

The 2010-2011 shot covers three types of influenza predicted by the World Health Organization as most at risk of showing up in the flu season mix. The latest shot covers the H3N2 virus, an influenza B virus, and the 2009 H1N1 virus. The mix changes every year.

Where to get the flu shot: Flu vaccines are available from area pharmacies, local health care providers and at Washtenaw County Public Health. Appointments at the public health department can be scheduled by calling (734) 544-6700. Google’s flu vaccine finder is available at

This story has been updated to reflect the fact that, of 54 people whose vaccine status was known, 65 percent of them did not receive the flu vaccine.



Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 3:01 a.m.

Why all the conspiracy theories? The flu is a public health issue, and is informing the public that someone died of the flu. They are also informing the public that the CDC is reccomending the vaccine for everyone 6 months and older. I really think people are reading too much into it about the motives for writing the article, whether or not something is newsworthy, and if big pharma is secretly running the government. Everyone put on your tin foil hats!


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 3:57 p.m.

Here, here.

steve h

Mon, Mar 7, 2011 : 10:27 p.m.

Non story. Ooooooohhhhhhh! 64 people hospitalized since October. Scary! Um, how many people have been hospitalized in Washtenaw county with cardiac disease? Diabetes? High blood pressure? Alcohol poisoning? No flu shot here. Still alive. Wash your hands and don't pick your nose. Pretty easy folks. Oh and I am around hundreds of people a day, not a recluse.


Mon, Mar 7, 2011 : 3:47 p.m.

My husband came down with the flu last Monday, and he's still off his feet - the WORST cough I've ever heard, and he's usually strong as a horse. Had to get him O2 and an inhaler at urgent care. I got the flu shot this year (he did not) and I still got it, just much milder version than he did. He's on the mend, but what a terrible batch of viruses this year: at the clinic, every single person was hacking up a lung/were weak and grey-tinged. I about doused myself in the hand-sanitizer!


Mon, Mar 7, 2011 : 3:33 p.m.

@veracity, Don't fall for it. Could it be that the purpose of this article is to scare the public (just read the headline) into taking dangerous and unnecessary vaccines containing toxins and foreign substances? Just askin. All that is needed is higher doses of vitamin D (lack of sun reduces vitamin D production during winter months), good nutrition and exercise to strengthen your immune system and stay healthy. Since we have started taken vitamin D, we haven't gotten sick. Even if we catch the cold or flu and feel sick, we are fine the next morning. I theorize that the body, during sleep, gets enough rest for the immune system to fight the virus. All natural and no foreign substances injected into my body. Injecting unknown substances seem so draconian these days.

Matt Cooper

Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 4:28 a.m.

First things first: Vioxx is an NSAID, not a vaccination. Secondly, Vioxx has been removed from the market. Thirdly, the safety record of vaccinations across the board has been proven time and time again, ad nauseum. Since you suggest others google vit. D, why not you go to the National Institute of Health, or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websites and do a little research yourself on the safty records of flu vaccinations.


Mon, Mar 7, 2011 : 9:53 p.m.

My mistake. I should have said **reliable** reference.


Mon, Mar 7, 2011 : 6:20 p.m.

Just Google "benefits of vitamin D" and you will get to much research that you will not be able to read all of it. It is well know among those that want an alternative to big pharma that keeps introducing drugs and vaccines that lead to thousands of deaths every year. Like Vioxx. It is a government conspiracy with the help of big pharma. It should be obvious.


Mon, Mar 7, 2011 : 4:14 p.m.

Please cite any reference that supports your theory that vitamin D, good nutrition and exercise are "all that is needed" to stay healthy.


Mon, Mar 7, 2011 : 3:59 p.m.

It's all a government plot is what you're saying?


Mon, Mar 7, 2011 : 3:26 p.m.

Just have to say, family memember was hospitalized for a week due to Influenza A which went into pneumonia. This individual had the Flu shot and Pneumonia vaccination too! My personal doctor is reporting to me that there have been a higher than usual amount of people this year who were vaccinated and yet still got very ill, seems like they are a bit off in the strains this year.

Mary Shue

Mon, Mar 7, 2011 : 3:04 p.m.

You may not get terribly sick from the flu. But while you are contageous, you may expose someone else to flu, maybe unknowingly, who has serious underlying disease or higher risk factors. Consider it your way of helping to protect those around you.

Craig Lounsbury

Mon, Mar 7, 2011 : 6:45 p.m.

To add to my point its no more "reasonable" to suggest "herd immunization" where everybody gets a flu shot than it is to require everybody to where a mask and gloves.

Craig Lounsbury

Mon, Mar 7, 2011 : 6:33 p.m.

DBH, A reasonable precaution is for you to get a flu shot to minimize your risk. An unreasonable precaution is for you to expect ME (read that anyone you cmome in contact with) to get a flu shot to minimize YOUR risk. That is the implication Mary Shue made that I take exception to.


Mon, Mar 7, 2011 : 4:17 p.m.

Mary Shue, excellent point! Herd immunity. Craig, there are reasonable precautions, and there are unreasonable precautions. Reasonable people can figure out which are which.

Craig Lounsbury

Mon, Mar 7, 2011 : 4:06 p.m.

and since the shot isn't 100% should we all wear masks and gloves in public?


Mon, Mar 7, 2011 : 2:32 p.m.

Could this be the begining of the end? An old man dies of the flu, get your flu shots, wear bandages over you mouths and nose, stay inside and keep your radios dialed to the emergency channel!


Mon, Mar 7, 2011 : 2:18 p.m.

When did winter start lasting six months

John B.

Mon, Mar 7, 2011 : 9:23 p.m.

You mean instead of nine months?


Mon, Mar 7, 2011 : 2:07 p.m.

" people use to be able to fight off, such illnesses" No, they did not. They just died and it wasn't reported on the internet. Life expectancy for someone born in 1900: ~48 years. For someone born today: ~78 years.


Mon, Mar 7, 2011 : 1:54 p.m.

I wonder why these stories, seem to make the news. Is it, so people will go out, and plop down some bucks, to get a flu shot? It's funny, how people use to be able to fight off, such illnesses, but now; we have a drive thru at the drug store. I'm just sayin.


Mon, Mar 7, 2011 : 1:44 p.m.

JenM: BMI matters. Extra weight puts a strain on every system in your body, including your respiratory system. Overweight people are also more likely to have other diseases that would make it harder to recover from the flu. And yes, 30/64 is a higher proportion from the US population at the moment, which is about a third overweight, I believe. Reporting the BMI of those who die of the flu is not frivolous, therefore. Public health officials probably do it on purpose to draw attention to the risks we all run....


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 1:27 p.m.

Well, in general, I would agree with you. However, this article is from the Washtenaw County epidemiologist and, as such, BMI is quite relevant when discussing groups of people, as this article does. While the usefulness of BMI in any one case might be limited (unless it were obviously aberrant, such as 15 or 50), BMI is helpful in portraying part of the picture of potential causes of disease or death; statistically/epidemiologically, there is no doubt that abnormally high BMIs are associated with a greater risk of more severe illness (including death) in influenza. BMI IS taken seriously by medical professionals, though its limitations are understood by most. You should check the CDC website yourself (see your response to Matrix below); they have included a BMI greater than 40 as a high risk factor for developing serious flu-related complications (<a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>.

Matt Cooper

Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 4:19 a.m.

The BMI chart is not taken seriously by most medical professionals because it is the most misleading method of measuring people's weight and overall health. So to report the BMI in any death not directly related to morbid obesity is going to fail to paint an accurate picture of why and/or how they died, and/or what any underlying conditions might or might not be. It would be a lot more pertinent and accurate if it asked for more than height and weight. Reporting &quot;Jimbob Mashpotato died of a flu virus and he had a BMI of 32.5&quot; means absolutely nothing if you don't know more about his overall health and lifestyle.


Mon, Mar 7, 2011 : 1:26 p.m.

Why is the BMI of the patients being reported? It should be noted that if not even 30 of the people had a BMI of over 30, then 34 of them did not. What percentage of the population is obese? It looks like this is a typical cross-section of the population in that regard - I wonder how many of them had blue eyes vs. brown? That is about how much BMI matters here.


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 3:30 p.m.

A simple screening tool for obesity! Note I said SCREENING tool, not a diagnostic tool. Are there better ones? Of course there are! But they all require measurements that are a bit more complicated to make, certainly for the patient and, to a lesser extent, for the physician's staff. BMI has some utility because an elevated BMI, statistically, is associated with increased risk for disease states. One is an increased risk for serious flu-related complications (as I had noted in my comment from 3/8/11 regarding the CDC site, a comment to which you interestingly did not reply). Another is diabetes mellitus. Among most physicians, these associations are well known and are used in the global assessment of a patient's health, wellness, and risk for future disease. And regarding the obvious failure of BMI in appropriately classifying someone with increased muscle mass (bodybuilder), any discerning physician can (or should be able to) use his or her judgment in deciding that BMI would NOT be a good screening tool in such a patient. There are always exceptions, and good physicians are aware of those and account for them. It's usually not that hard, actually.

Matt Cooper

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 5:21 a.m.

Screening tool for what? If I hand you a BMI chart with my particular BMI number on it (32) it means nothing, it indicates nothing, and is useless. What diseases are diagnosed by BMI charts? What medical conditions are diganosed by a BMI chart? As I pointed out, any body builder would more than qualify as 'morbidly obese' using the BMI.


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 1:09 p.m.

I disagree. BMI is useful as a simple screening tool. It is not meant to be a definitive measure of any aspect of a person's health. However, if it should be 25 or above, or below 20 (I think), then the person should have a further evaluation by their physician to see if they have any health issues that might account for such deviance.

Matt Cooper

Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 4:21 a.m.

BMI's only ask your height and weight. There is no other information regarding health, lifestyle, eating habits, etc. Any body builder would qualify as &quot;morbidly obese&quot; by the BMI. It is ridiculously silly to use the BMI for anything.

dading dont delete me bro

Mon, Mar 7, 2011 : 6:58 p.m.

have you paid attention to the bmi charts? those things are stupidly ridiculous. i should be about 10' 3&quot; !?!


Mon, Mar 7, 2011 : 1:04 p.m.

Matrix: The message to take away from this article is that flu can cause serious illness and death which can be mostly prevented by immunization with flu vaccine. The risks of a serious adverse reaction to influenza vaccine is so slight that nobody should avoid immunization for fear of an ill effect unless the person has reacted to a prior flu shot or has allergy to egg components. Even people having egg allergies may receive flu immunization if it is administered carefully with the guidance of an allergist. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Matt Cooper

Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 4:12 a.m.

What you say is mostly true, however, people with egg allergies should be EXTREMELY careful. I've seen two of my patients almost die in the last several years due to getting the flu shot and having a reaction because they were allergic to eggs.


Mon, Mar 7, 2011 : 12:29 p.m.

I am sorry for the man and his family but why is this news? People die of flus and many other illnesses and diseases all the time.

Craig Lounsbury

Mon, Mar 7, 2011 : 12:16 p.m.

&quot;...the man had severe underlying disease...&quot;