In our Health Alert tonight, flu season has arrived earlier than usual with the CDC reporting widespread activity in 6 states. Is Michigan one of them? That question will be answered by our Chief Health Editor Dr. Partha Nandi who joins us now. Doc, which states are getting hit the hardest with flu activity?
Dr. Nandi: The Influenza virus is certainly unusually high in some states for this time of the year. When you compare last year’s data to this year, there were no states reporting widespread activity. But unfortunately, the flu is off to a vigorous start in Alabama, California, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada and South Carolina. Luckily, Michigan was not on that list.
Question: How is the State of Michigan doing with flu activity?
Right now the flu code for Michigan is set at "minimal" and "local" activity. But there has been an increase in lab-confirmed cases of the flu in the South-East region. In fact, the Michigan Disease Surveillance System that tracks Influenza shows that the number of cases has more than doubled in one week. So that indicates it is ramping up here.
Question: Now will the flu season be worse than usual?
The flu season is notoriously unpredictable so it’s very hard to say. Yes, so far it’s not off to a good start. And when you look at what happened in Australia where the winters take place sooner than ours, they had an early and severe flu season. Having said that, we can’t say with certainty that the same will happen here. What I can tell you is that flu activity has been above the national baseline and so far, four children have died from flu-like illnesses. So I highly recommend that everyone six months and older get their flu shot. Especially young children and the elderly who are particularly vulnerable to flu-related complications like dehydration and pneumonia. Also, please don’t forget to be vigilant about washing hands, coughing into your elbow and staying home when you’re sick. These steps can really help lower everyone’s risk of getting and spreading the flu.