DETROIT (WWJ) – Flu season is here in Michigan and Beaumont Health System doctors say it’s already one of the most intense flu seasons in recent history.
Last week, doctors at the Royal Oak location treated a record number of patients in the emergency center.
“We are experiencing four times the number of cases in our community than is typical for mid-December,” Jeffrey Band, M.D., Beaumont Health System chairman, Epidemiology, said in a statement. “One of the reasons for the marked uptick in cases is because it has been relatively quiet over the past several years. Every few years we experience a marked upsurge.”
In addition, the flu strain has drifted from what experts originally predicted. As a result of this unexpected drift, Dr. Band says the vaccine is significantly less protective against nearly half of the flu viruses in circulation.
“Breakthrough cases of influenza are occurring due to this mismatch. However, the vaccine still may modify the degree of illness in affected persons with the drifted strain. In addition, the vaccine remains quite effective against the other 50 percent of flu circulating in the community. Therefore, it is still best to be vaccinated. It is not too late,” he said.
Flu season typically extends to late March. Typical symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, muscle aches, chills, fatigue. People who develop severe influenza are more prone to develop complications such as ear infections, sinus infections and bacterial pneumonia.
Vaccination remains the best method of preventing flu and other complications. Every year, at least 30,000 people are hospitalized in the United States with complications due to influenza. Vaccination can prevent most of these complications.
Some people have fears or concerns about the safety of vaccinations. As a result, Band says America is experiencing an increase in many childhood diseases that were almost eradicated in the United States such as measles, mumps and pertussis. The cases are primarily occurring in unvaccinated children and adolescents and can be spread to older adults who have lost immunity due to aging or diseases like cancer. These diseases can cause severe illness and death.
“Vaccination is effective and safe,” Band added. “All the vaccines used today are highly purified. There are two types of vaccines used for prevention of diseases: a killed, purified subunit of the virus or bacteria that produces antibodies to help prevent disease or a live, weakened vaccine that does not cause disease, but does produce protective antibodies to prevent disease when administered.”
For more information on the flu, visit www.cdc.gov/flu.