Michigan hit hard by flu season; H1N1 reappears

The H1N1 flu virus is back for the 2013-14 flu season in Michigan with four reported deaths and many others on life support.

In 2009, news reports began on a new and deadly strain of the flu virus called H1N1. On Jan. 2, 2014 health officials at University of Michigan reported another severe outbreak of the virus, which left seven children dead last winter. As of Saturday three adults and one infant have been reported dead.

According to the Chief Medical Executive for the State Health Department, Matt Davis, all three adults were previously healthy and not the usual persons considered at risk of death for such an influenza. The patients currently admitted that are the sickest either did not receive the vaccine or fell ill just after receiving it.

As of Saturday, 11 hospitals across Michigan have collectively reported 121 hospitalizations due to the H1N1 virus. While the flu season began slowly this fall, Health Department Officials reported a surge in activity during the final three weeks of December. This outbreak is prompting for doctors to call for more vaccines to step up the protection of patients.

Protecting Against the Flu Virus

Unlike the first pandemic of the H1N1 virus in 2009, health officials are now better prepared to handle such an outbreak with a vaccine being administered. Students can receive the vaccine at local health clinics, doctors’ offices and pharmacies such as CVS. The Snow Health Center on campus also offers influenza vaccines to students.

In addition to receiving a vaccine, other steps for precaution should be taken by students during this season.

Hand washing is one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of viruses, especially when spending time in public place such as school or work. When washing hands, use the hottest water tolerable. Proper hand washing is a simple process that can be made fun:

• Turn on the water and allow it to get as hot as tolerable to skin
• Pull down the paper towel
• Rinse hands first, then add soap
• Scrub for 30 seconds
• Rinse and turn the water off using the paper towel

Symptoms to watch out for

Knowing the common symptoms for the flu will help catch the virus early, which can mean the difference between life and death with the H1N1 virus. Students with any combination of the following symptoms should report to a health care provider as soon as possible:

• A fever of 102 degrees or above for more than two days
• Coughing or sneezing
• Stuffy nose
• Sore throat
• Fatigue
• Headaches and body aches
• Chills
• Loss of energy and appetite

Compared with a common cold, these symptoms are usually more severe and last longer. Certain people are at a higher risk of not only contracting the H1N1 and other flu viruses, but enduring more complications as well. These include small children, elderly and those with medical complications such as blood and kidney disorders.

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