The number of lives being taken by the flu this year is increasing day by day, some adults and some children, and hundreds are in hospitals. Six pediatric deaths nationwide have been linked to the flu this season; one, an infant in the state of Michigan.
Western U.P. Health Department's Public Health Medical Director, Dr. Terry Frankovich, said the nation's most common flu strain this year is making a comeback from 2009: the H1N1 virus.
â??In Michigan, it's been about 91 percent of the flu's tested so far have been the H1N1 strain that we saw first a few years ago when it was a brand new strain out and about,â?? said Dr. Frankovich. â??This year, the flu vaccine has coverage for that strain as well.â??
Seniors over 65, young children especially under six months of age, women who are pregnant, and people with chronic diseases, such as asthma, COPD, or diabetes, are at highest risk.
Dr. Frankovich said the vaccine typically takes about two weeks to become effective.
â??If I get exposed yesterday and I get my flu vaccine today, it doesn't have time to provide me with protection,â?? Dr. Frankovich explained. â??So, the vaccine itself will not give anyone the flu, and that's important for people to know, but it does need some time to provide protection.â??
Flu symptoms are similar to those of the common cold--coughing, sneezing, a generally ill feeling--but can last a week or longer. Body aches and chills are also more commonly associated with the flu.
â??The flu usually presents with a higher fever. A cold, not so much,â?? explained public health nurse at WUPHD, Elizabeth Daniels. â??Aches, pains, fever, chills, those are the most common.â??
If you have the flu, Dr. Frankovich recommends drinking lots of fluids, getting plenty of rest, and taking medication for a fever if needed.
â??Most people are most highly contagious in the first few days of the illness, so trying to kind of lay low during that time can really help to prevent spread within the community as well,â?? she added.
In addition, wash your hands often, cover your cough, and stay home when you know you're sick.
Dr. Frankovich said itâ??s not too late to get a vaccine. Most health care professionals can provide vaccinations as well as local pharmacies.