February 27, 2020

Infection Preventionist shares tips on staying healthy this flu season

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ARENAC COUNTY— The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) recently sent out a press release confirming the first influenza- associated pediatric deaths of the 2019-2020 flu season in Michigan. With flu season going around, Infection Preventionist Jennifer Duke of Ascension in Standish gives some tips to avoid it. 

Duke said the number one priority in keeping yourself safe, is to get vaccinated. Those six months and older are eligible to get vaccinated and according to Duke, the best way to keep those younger than six months, is to vaccinate around them. Duke describes this as herd immunity, meaning if everyone around them is protected, it won’t be brought into their environment. 

“Anyone that is not vaccinated is at risk of getting it but those that are at the greatest risk for complications from the flu are the very young, the elderly, and those that may have other chronic diseases that affect their respiratory tract or their immune system,” said Duke. 

Another essential tip to keep in mind is cough etiquette. “Cough into your elbow or shoulder, not your hands because then you spread virus around with your hands,” said Duke. “It is primarily spread by walking into someone else’s cough or sneeze cloud. An uncovered cough or sneeze can hang in the air for a short period of time. You can walk into it and inhale it into your respiratory tract and that is primarily how it is spread.”

Hand hygiene is also important in avoiding the flu. Washing your hands regularly and keeping hand sanitizer nearby would be a good way of fighting off disease. When you are regularly washing your hands and you come into contact with something someone else has coughed on, you’re not then introducing it to yourself, said Duke. “The hand-to-mouth can happen, but it is not nearly as common as inhaling it in your respiratory tract.” 

According to the MDHHS, Michigan has experienced widespread flu activity over the past few weeks.The MDHHS Bureau of Laboratories confirmed a majority of the positive influenza specimens this flu season have been Influenza B virus. 

According to Duke, the Standish hospital has seen levels of flu-like illnesses come in over the past few weeks. “They might not necessarily test positive for influenza, but there is a lot of respiratory junk out there right now so our testing is increasing,” said Duke. “We are seeing a few more test positive for influenza, like the rest of the state. The type we are seeing more at this point is type B.” 

Type B typically comes towards the end of the flu season. “Usually the A’s come first and then when we see B’s, we know the end is coming,” said Duke. “But this has been a bit of an odd year.” 

The flu season usually begins after Christmas, around the first of the year, said Duke. Once kids start going back to school, they pass it to each other and then bring it home and pass it around their households. Duke said the amount of flu cases hasn’t been as bad this year as it has in previous years so far, but it could pick up in February and March. 

According to MDHHS, “It takes up to two weeks after the vaccine is administered before the body builds up enough immunity to prevent the flu, so Michigan residents should get vaccinated now to protect themselves before flu activity increases in Michigan.” 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were an estimated 34,200 deaths from influenza during last year’s flu season. In Michigan, four children died last year due to flu-related complications, while nationally there were 136 flu-related deaths among children. 

MDHHS recommends Michigan residents get vaccinated now to protect themselves from increasing flu activity, as it takes two weeks after administered before the body builds enough immunity to prevent the flu.

 


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