MARQUETTE - Although it feels like it's the halfway point of winter, the flu season in Michigan is just getting started.
Dr. Kevin Piggott, medical director of the Marquette County Health Department, said influenza is picking up across the nation. He said 25 states, mostly along the east coast and into the south, are reporting increasing cases of influenza. Michigan has gone from seeing local influenza activity to regional activity.
"We are getting more confirmation of people with influenza like illness and influenza across the nation as well as the state of Michigan," Piggott said.
Kris Martin of Marquette receives a flu shot from Northern Michigan University student nurse Chelsea Westlund at a recent flu clinic held in the Senior Center gymnasium. (Journal file photo)
Piggott said the main types of influenza being seen are the 2009 H1N1, influenza A (H3) and influenza B. All of those viruses are contained in this year's seasonal flu vaccine, he said.
It's too early in the season to compare current flu numbers with last year, Piggott said. Besides which, last year's flu season was something of an anomaly. A typical flu season runs from January through March The county was alerted to the H1N1 pandemic in april 2009. H1N1 flu numbers picked up in May and then dropped over the summer but picked up again in October through December 2009, which is considered part of the 2010 flu season.
"We had a very early flu season last year that started in October, started peaking by November and headed back down in December," Piggott said. "By January, during our usual flu time, we really didn't have a whole lot."
It's also difficult to compare the number of people who got vaccinated.
The government bout the H1N1 vaccine and those vaccines were tracked through the Michigan Care Improvement Registry so officials had a pretty good idea of how many people were immunized.
Seasonal vaccines, however, are bought on the private market and while the county can periodically check with pharmacies and other providers there is no way to definitively track numbers.
Piggott said easy ways to avoid getting the flu are getting the flu shot and hand washing.
"Think of how many times you sit down to have your meal and have you washed your hands before that? Where have your hands been prior to that? If you don't have the opportunity to get to a sink then use a hand sanitizer. Those are becoming much more common and you can carry a small bottle with you," he said.
He said if someone is sick or they think they're coming down with something they should stay home from work.
"You actually start spreading the virus generally about 24 hours before you become ill. Well, you can't do much if you don't know you've got it. But if you start to become ill and you start to get those aches, don't expose the other people at your work site," he said.
The same is true with children and going to school when sick, he said.
Christopher Diem can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.