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October 15, 2012- MDCH Confirms First Influenza Cases of the Season
The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) has confirmed 12 cases of influenza, the first identified by the state laboratory during the 2012-2013 flu season in Michigan. The illnesses occurred in both children and adults in lower Michigan. At least two people were known to have been hospitalized. Nine cases have been confirmed as influenza B viruses, two as influenza A (H3N2) virus, and one as influenza A (H1N1) 2009 virus.

While influenza A and B viruses have now been confirmed in Michigan, it is too early to tell what influenza viruses will circulate during this influenza season or how severe the influenza season may be.

“As with every flu season, we begin seeing cases in the fall just as we have this year,” said James K. Haveman, Director of the MDCH. “We know that the flu vaccine is the single best way to protect against getting the flu. Now that we’ve confirmed the first cases this season, this is an excellent time to remind Michigan residents to get the flu vaccine.”

Based on MDCH reports, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta will report Michigan's flu activity to "sporadic," the lowest of four influenza activity categories the federal government tracks. MDCH has a variety of systems in place to detect influenza, including a network of clinicians and hospital emergency departments throughout the state that report persons with flu-like illness, laboratories that refer positive test results for influenza, and school-based absenteeism reporting.

Sporadic flu cases are often seen in Michigan in the fall. Activity typically peaks in late January through February, but can sometimes peak earlier or later, depending on the strain of flu and severity of the season.

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Between 1976 and 2007, national estimates of flu-associated deaths ranged from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people. The flu is more serious than the common cold but can be easily prevented. The CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine as the best way to protect against influenza and will protect residents during the duration of flu season.

The composition of the flu vaccine is determined each year. The 2012-2013 flu vaccine will protect against influenza A (H1N1) 2009 virus, influenza A (H3N2) virus, and influenza B virus. MDCH and the CDC recommend that everyone 6 months of age and older receive an annual flu vaccine. Vaccination is especially important for those at high-risk for serious flu complications, including older people, pregnant women, children who are 6 months and older, people with certain health conditions, as well as contacts of high risk individuals such as new parents, health care professionals, household members, and caregivers.

MDCH's Vaccines for Children (VFC) program gives childhood vaccines to eligible children in families who are in need of affordable immunizations. In VFC, doctors and clinics enroll in VFC and give vaccines to children who qualify. Check with your doctor or your local health department to see if they participate in the VFC program. For more information on the VFC program, visit www.michigan.gov/vfc.

Each year, CDC works closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), health care providers, state and local health departments, and other partners to ensure the highest safety standards for influenza vaccines. Over the years, seasonal flu vaccines have had very good safety track records.

Vaccination is occurring now and will continue throughout the entire flu season. There is ample supply of flu vaccine available.  Citizens can call their physician, local health department, or utilize the Health Map Vaccine Finder at www.flushot.healthmap.org to find nearby influenza vaccination clinics. For more information, visit www.michigan.gov/flu.

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