Flu season has come early this year and Michigan is among the states where the illness is widespread, according to the Centers for Disease Control. So, Dexter Patch has put together a handy guide to help keep you and your family healthy!
Read on for advice from local experts on symptoms, where to find more information, where to get vaccinated and ways to stay healthy.
Influenza is a life-threatening disease, especially for the elderly and infants, according to the Washtenaw County Public Health Department, which reports there were 18 pediatric deaths nationwide and four in Michigan as of Jan. 10.
"Flu can be spread to others up to about six feet away, mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk," the department states. "Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own eyes, nose or mouth."
The flu usually comes on suddenly and symptoms can include the following, according to the CDC:
- Fever or chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
Flu website has answers
The Washtenaw County Public Health Department has created a website dedicated to providing information about the flu, and ongoing flu trends in the county. Visit the website to find vaccination locations, tips, and other useful information.
Where to get vaccinated
The Oakland County Health Division says it's not too late to get vaccinated against the flu.
“Compared to recent years, we are seeing early flu activity, although it is still within normal range. We have seen peaks as early as October and as late as March in the past," OCHD manager/health officer Kathy Forzley said. "It’s best to get your flu shot as soon as possible as it takes two weeks after the vaccination for the body to develop protection.”
In Washtenaw County, vaccines cost $20. Appointments are available by calling 734-544-6700. Medicaid is accepted (you must bring your card). The health department is unable to bill Medicare Part B for the 2012-13 flu season, so Medicare Part B participants must go to a physician or pharmacy for a flu shot. The department is also unable to bill private insurance companies, but it will provide customers with a receipt.
Tips to stay healthy
Susan Cerniglia, a representative from the Washtenaw County Public Health Department, recommends the following steps to help slow the spread of colds and flu.
- Cough or sneeze into a tissue and throw it away.
- If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your sleeve.
- Wash hands often.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
- If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
- Make sure to exercise daily, eat healthy food, drink water and get plenty of sleep.
- Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
Cerniglia said there have been 43 hospitalizations in the county since the start of the flu season, and 16 from Dec. 30 through Jan. 5.
[See the attached PDFs for more information and fun activities to help educate your children.]