MARQUETTE - There's no threat of an H1N1 pandemic this year, nor is there the threat of an outbreak of H5N1 - also known as bird flu.
But that doesn't mean people shouldn't get inoculated against the seasonal flu virus, according to Marquette County health officials.
The Marquette County Health Department holds flu clinics every year prior to the typical start of the flu season. Marquette County Health Director Fred Benzie said interest in the county's flu clinics are down this year.
Kris Martin of Marquette receives a flu shot from NMU student nurse Chelsea Westlund at a flu clinic held in the Senior Center gymnasium on Friday afternoon.(Journal photo by Danielle Pemble)
Northern Michigan University student nurse Adam Burri fills a syringe with the flu vaccine at a flu clinic held at the Senior Center in Marquette. (Journal photo by Danielle Pemble)
"I guess that's to be expected given how much interest we had in the H1N1 last year," Benzie said.
Flu vaccines are usually available either as an injection or a spray mist. The injection protects against three strains of flu, usually A/H1N1, A/H3N2 and B. It contains an inactivated, or dead, component of the virus.
The mist, which is sprayed up the nose, contains live attenuated virus. It was developed as an alternative to injections because some people don't like needles, Benzie said. He said the county doesn't have any spray vaccine available this year.
Benzie said people can't get the flu virus from receiving an inoculation.
"What people don't understand is we use a very, very small component of that virus to generate the vaccine so not only is it killed virus it's only part of the killed virus and it can't (make people sick), it won't. It's been proven. You can't get the flu virus from receiving that inoculation," he said.
Even the spray vaccine is incapable of making people sick, he said. However, people who work in neonatal care and other immuno-compromised settings are advised not to receive the live attenuated virus as a precaution, Benzie said.
Benzie said there's a lot of misinformation about vaccines, including the belief that there is an association between vaccines and autism. A recently released report, published in the September issue of the Journal of Pediatrics - the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, conclusively proves that there is no link between autism and vaccines, Benzie said.
Another reason people may avoid getting a flu shot, Benzie said, is the belief that too many shots will overload the immune system.
"Totally false," Benzie said. "We've proven vaccines are one of the most proven public health causes of preventable death and disease."
Often overlooked in the discussion of flu inoculation is the toll the flu takes on the state's economy, he said.
"We work hard in Michigan to make sure our economy rebounds and continues to grow and we've got all kinds of people working on economic development," Benzie said. "The real forward thinking business owners call us up and say come on down and immunize my people or they send their people to their physicians or private providers or one of our immunization clinics."
He said more importance needs to be placed on getting health care workers, both locally and nationally, immunized.
"We have to set a better example. At Marquette County Health Department we have a very high percentage of people. We don't mandate it, it's not required but we set the example and we see the wisdom in being immunized," he said.
The county health department has a flu clinic scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at the Negaunee Senior Center in Negaunee. The next clinic is from 1-4 p.m. at the Forsyth Township EMS building in Gwinn.
That clinic is both a walk-in and drive-through. The vaccine costs $25 for adults and $8 for children age 18 and under.
Medicaid and Medicare patients should bring their card and will have the cost paid by either of those services.
Christopher Diem can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. His e-mail address is email@example.com.