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Flu season off to an early start

December 6, 2012
The Daily News

An annual flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu and the flu-related complications that could lead to hospitalization and even death.

This week, Dec. 2-8, is National Influenza Vaccination Week and the Michigan Department of Community Health is recommending that all Michigan's citizens 6 months and older get a flu shot.

Nationally, flu vaccination coverage estimates show that roughly 42 percent of people 6 months of age and older received a flu vaccine last season.

Unfortunately, that means that the majority of those who are recommended to receive the influenza vaccination went unprotected. Michigan estimates for flu vaccination coverage are at 38.8 percent, which is even lower than the national average.

"Every year, flu spreads across the country from person to person, family to family, and community to community," said James K. Haveman, Director of he Michigan Department of Community Health.

"One of the greatest challenges we face from the flu is the uncertainty of the disease. Flu viruses are constantly changing which is why we need to protect ourselves and our families with an annual flu vaccine," Haveman said.

Last week flu activity throughout the United States increased.

In Michigan, flu activity has been sporadic so far this season, however reports of laboratory-confirmed flu cases have been documented across the state and are starting to increase.

Wisconsin state health officials also say the flu season is off to an early and deadly start.

The Wisconsin Division of Public Health says four flu-related deaths have been reported and 26 people have been hospitalized. State epidemiologist Tom Haupt says in the last two to three flu seasons, no flu-related hospitalizations were reported before January.

Some 113 laboratory-confirmed influenza cases were reported in Wisconsin between Oct. 5 and Friday, compared with seven cases at this time last year.

The severity of the flu can vary from mild to severe. When severe, flu complications can lead to hospitalization and in some cases death. Even healthy children and adults can get sick from the flu. Each year it's estimated that more than 200,000 people are hospitalized because of flu-related complications. People with long-term health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and asthma are at greater risk of experiencing serious health complications as a result of flu. A flu vaccine is the first and best way to prevent influenza and is particularly important in people who are at higher risk of serious flu complications.

Getting a flu vaccine is more convenient than ever before.

Vaccines are available from physicians, local health departments, and at many retail pharmacies. Many employers, colleges and universities also offer flu vaccines. Additionally, the annual vaccine supply continues to grow, helping to ensure that enough vaccine is available for everyone.

"When you're out and about in your community and see signs offering flu shots, or when you visit your doctor for a routine check-up, remember: the flu vaccine is the single best way to prevent the flu," said Haveman.

Below, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention list some tips to tell the difference between a cold and the flu.

What is the difference between a cold and the flu?

The flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses but they are caused by different viruses. Because these two types of illnesses have similar flu-like symptoms, it can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. In general, the flu is worse than the common cold.

How can you tell the difference between a cold and the flu?

Because colds and flu share many symptoms, it can be difficult (or even impossible) to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. Special tests that usually must be done within the first few days of illness can be carried out, when needed to tell if a person has the flu.

What are the symptoms of the flu versus the symptoms of a cold?

The flu is generally worse than the common cold, and symptoms such as fever, body aches, extreme tiredness, and dry cough are more common and intense. Colds are usually milder than the flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations.



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