LANSING (WWJ/AP) – 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 has died from the flu. He’s been identified Joshua Polehna, a freshman at Lake Fenton High School.

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

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness with symptoms that include fever, headache, fatigue, cough, stuffy or runny nose and muscle aches.

Dr. James Ziadeh, Chief of Emergency Medicine at Beaumont Hospital, said they’ve treated dozens of flu cases each day in the past few weeks. In some patients, Ziadeh said the flu can lead to pneumonia.

“You tend to worry more in patients with underlying medical conditions, patients with diabetes, patients with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — they are at a much higher risk. And, anytime you start to develop symptoms like shortness of breath, fever that returns after the initial fever — those are concerning symptoms and they should be evaluated,” Ziadeh said.

In most cases, Ziadeh said patients can recover better from the flu by resting, drinking lots of fluids and with over-the-counter medications. In severe cases however, hospitalization may be required.

Flu can be spread to others up to about six feet away, mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. 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 eyes, nose or mouth.

To avoid this, wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. The flu usually comes on suddenly and can cause mild to severe illness, and at times lead to death.

To help area residents identify flu symptoms and select a treatment option, Beaumont Health System has launched a free, community flu hotline.

Staffed by Beaumont registered nurses, the hotline is a toll-free, 24-hour-a-day resource for information about flu symptoms and when and where to seek medical attention. The flu hotline can be reached at 1-888-375-4161.

For more information about seasonal flu, go to

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