Washtenaw County Public Health officials are urging residents to get inoculated for the influenza virus, warning that this year's flu season could be longer and more severe than previous years.
Four children in Michigan have died already from complications associated with the virus. Joshua Polenha, 15, a student at Lake Fenton High School, died earlier this week, according to Fenton Patch.
Across the state, 285 cases of influenza have been confirmed by state labs, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Eighty percent of those cases were due to the H3N2 strain of the virus, which health officials say can cause more severe symptoms, especially in children and older adults.
"We are still not sure what the season will look like," Susan Cerniglia, a representative from the Washtenaw County Public Health Department said. "So far cases are trending upward from previous years, and we still haven't peaked. If the trend continues, we can expect a severe flu season in the county."
Cerniglia said as of Dec. 29, 2012 there have been 27 flu-related hospitalizations since Sept. 30. No deaths have been reported in Washtenaw County.
"We've already passed the number of hospitalizations from last year," she said.
The good news is that the H3N2 virus strain is included in this year's flu vaccine, meaning the vaccine is considered a "good match," according to Cerniglia.
"Receiving a vaccine doesn't necessarily mean that you are immune to the flu, but hopefully symptoms will be less severe," she said.
The CDC recommends that children 4 and younger receive a vaccination, as well as people 50 and older and anyone with chronic health conditions.
Vaccines are available at the Washtenaw County Public Health Department for $20. Vaccines are also available at local pharmacies, including:
- Dexter Pharmacy
- Walgreens, 2355 Jackson Ave.
- CVS Pharmacy, 5449 Jackson Road
- CVS, 935 South Main St. in Chelsea
- Chelsea Community Hospital, 775 South Main St.
- Jensen's Community Pharmacy
- CVS Pharmacy
- Walmart Supercenter