Health officials warn Influenza activity now widespread - WNEM TV 5

Health officials warn Influenza activity now widespread

Posted: Updated:
A person getting a flu shot. A person getting a flu shot.

Officials with area hospitals said that according to the Michigan Department of Community Health, the current Influenza activity level in Michigan is now widespread. 

MidMichigan Health in Midland became the fifth hospital in Mid-Michigan to announce limits on visitors entering the facility due to a rise in flu cases. Other hospitals with limitations on visitors include Saginaw's VA hospital, McLaren Bay Region, Covenant and St. Mary's.

As of January 3, 2013, compared to the previous week, emergency department visits for patients with flu-like symptoms have sharply increased.

Health officials say the number of Michigan children reported dead from the flu this season has risen to four.

The Michigan Department of Community Health says a 15-year-old from central Michigan died from the flu over the weekend. has identified him as Lake Fenton High School freshman Joshua Polehna.

Earlier deaths have involved a 6-year-old and a 6-month-old from southwestern Michigan and a 13-year-old from central Michigan.

What is influenza (also called flu)?

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death.

Signs and symptoms of flu:

People who have the flu often feel some or all of these signs and symptoms:

  • Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (very tired)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

*It's important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

How flu spreads

Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. 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 mouth, eyes or possibly their nose.

Period of contagiousness

You may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others for an even longer time.

The Center for Disease Control recommends 3 actions to fight the Flu: 

1) An annual flu vaccine is the first and most important step in protecting against the influenza viruses. 

2) Take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs by: a) Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, b) Wash your hands often with soap & water or an alcohol-based hand rub if water is not available, c) Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth as germs spread this way, d) Try to avoid close contact with sick people, e) Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever had gone away and f) While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. 

3) Take antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them.

Copyright 2013 WNEM (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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