Flu season starts slowly

BENZIE COUNTY — According to medical professionals in the area, the influenza season has begun, but area doctors’ offices and emergency rooms aren’t seen a lot of activity yet.

Jennifer Reed, a clinical administrator and nurse practitioner at Crystal Lake Clinic, said clinics haven’t started seeing it yet.

“I don’t believe it has started yet,” Reed said. “We usually send out notes when clinics start seeing it. It hasn’t happened yet. There’s nothing worth noting as far as infectious diseases go, at the moment.”

Health officials say preliminary lab results from patients who have caught the flu early in the season show the vaccine is a good match for viruses identified. (File photo)

Health officials say preliminary lab results from patients who have caught the flu early in the season show the vaccine is a good match for viruses identified. (File photo)

Dr. Joshua Meyerson, medical director for the Benzie Leelanau District Health Department, also said state-wide, little activity has been seen.

“It has been sporadic across the state; there has been some flu reported in Northern Michigan,” Meyerson said. “There is some flu out there. However, it usually peaks in February, but sees an increase throughout the winter months. There is really no way of knowing exactly when it will peak this year, it could be a month from now, or three months from now.”

Meyerson said it is difficult to predict a mild or bad flu season, because things change rapidly when the influenza virus is concerned. However, he did say the flu season usually follows the same trends every season.

“We do know every year it comes around and eventually causes an epidemic in peak months,” he said. “In some years, it is very mild, and some years, it is more severe.”

He also said taking measures to not get sick is the best way to guard against the flu.

“The best thing you can do to protect yourself and those around you is to get the flu shot every year,” Meyerson said. “What the predominate virus is, we don’t know yet, but some early specimens have come in, and the strains see so far match the vaccine. When the vaccine matches what is causing disease, the vaccine is more effective.”

While influenza may not be spreading widely, Meyerson did say he had heard reports of norovirus, what people commonly call the “stomach flu.”

“You typically see an increase around the holiday season,” he said. “Every year it peaks in late fall and early winter. The norovirus can cause one or two days of gastro-intestinal upset, with vomiting and diarrhea. That’s not what you get with influenza. with influenza, you get a high fever for several days, along with body aches and sore throat, which could progress to cough and chest congestion.”

Meyerson said both the stomach flu and influenza can both be cared for at home.

“People with the flu should stay home and rest, so they don’t spread it to others,” he said. “The same goes for the norovirus. People should also make sure to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of clear liquids to replace the liquids lost.”

However, if symptoms don’t subside, or if people start having problems breathing, they are advised to visit the doctor.

Both Reed and Meyerson said aside from getting the flu shot, staying healthy is a good way to stave off illness.

“This time of year, there are always lots of respiratory illnesses going around,” Meyerson said. “Wash your hands, have good hygiene, get good sleep and eat healthy.”


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