Severe H1N1 flu cases reported at Michigan hospitals

Doctors urge people to get vaccine


Deadly H1N1 flu — the influenza virus strain behind the 2009 pandemic — continues its resurgence in Michigan, leading to the deaths of at least one child and three adults, according to state health and hospital officials.

About a dozen adults and children — patients who previously were healthy — have been on life support at the University of Michigan Health System’s hospitals due to the virus.

Three adults have died, according to a health system spokeswoman. In December, the state reported that an infant from central Michigan had died from H1N1.

Many of the hospitalized patients were transferred to U-M from other hospitals because their flu was so severe. In addition to traditional ventilators, the U-M health system offers extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, technology for patients who can no longer breathe on their own.

The machinery supports not only the patient’s lungs, as a ventilator does, but also the patient’s heart, Davis said.

It appears the sickest patients either didn’t get the flu vaccine or received a vaccine within the past two weeks — the time frame needed for the vaccine to be effective, said Dr. Sandro Cinti, an infectious disease doctor at U-M and at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System.

“This looks like 2009, but this time we have a vaccine,” he said.

At the same time, patients in less-severe condition are recuperating in other area hospitals. According to state surveillance reports, dozens of Michiganders in just eight of the state’s hospitals — those selected to be part of monitoring efforts — were hospitalized with the flu by Dec. 21.

Cinti and other medical and public health professionals have stepped up calls for vaccines in recent weeks.

But some consumers remain reluctant, fearing they will get the flu from the flu shot or that vaccines causes autism — theories that research repeatedly has proven wrong, said Cinti, who also cared for patients in the 2009 pandemic before a vaccine became available.

Flu activity was slow in the fall, but surged in the final weeks of December, prompting the Michigan Department of Community Health to upgrade its flu activity reporting to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from “local” activity to “regional.”

Cinti said it’s tough to predict the trajectory of flu season going forward.

Extreme cold weather might shut down schools, which can be flu hotspots. But it also forces people to stay inside and in close proximity with those who might be infected.

The key, he said, is not the weather — it’s prevention.


Posted by Tribune News Services

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