Four children have died and 285 cases of influenza have been confirmed in Michigan in what health officials are saying could be one of the worst flu seasons the state has seen in years.
Twenty-nine states, including Michigan, are now reporting high Influeza-like illness activity, according to the Center for Disease Control.
The numbers are translating to more patients showing up in doctors' offices and emergency rooms, too, including Dearborn's Oakwood Hospital and Medical Center.
"We're seeing quite a few more patients this year," shared Dr. Daniel Sheesley, DO, who serves as director of the hospital's Emergency Department. "I'm treating several flu patients a day."
Flu season has hit hard and early this year.
"We had some early (outbreak) years in '03 and '07, but this is the earliest I can remember," Bob Swanson, director of the division of immunization at the Michigan Department of Community Health told the Detroit Free Press.
The numbers of actual flu patients are hard to quantify, Sheesley explained, because not everyone who has the symptoms is tested for the flu.
"If they're really young, really old, or really sick ... we'll potentially test them," he said. "Patients that come in—the classic 30-year-old with symptoms ... we'll see them and evaluate them. We won't test them for the flu."
Most people are sent home with instructions to stay in bed, get lots of fluids, and take ibuprofen. Those who are diagnosed with the flu are generally being prescribed Tamiflu.
For those people who feel like their symptoms need a doctor's attention, Sheesley recommends calling their primary care physician over showing up at the emergency room in most cases. Oakwood will never turn anyone away, he said, but there may be a wait.
"A lot of people are coming in who have the flu—they’re waiting long times to be seen because of the volumes," he explained. "If they had called their primary care doctor, they may have received treatment more quickly."
Oakwood also offers centers with same day or next day appointments available for people who do not have or cannot see their primary care physician. A list of those locations—three of which are in Dearborn—can be found on Oakwood's website.
And if you haven't gotten sick yet? Health officials are still encouraging people to receive a flu shot, ample quantities of which are available.
"I recommend it—absolutely," Dr. Sheesley said of getting the flu shot now. "We don’t know when the peak is going to be."
Otherwise, the MDCH recommends the following tips to keep from contracting and spreading the flu:
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, and use hand sanitizer
- If you have flu-like symptoms, stay home from school or work.
- Cough or sneeze into a tissue, or the crook of your elbow, whenever possible.
Find out where to get a flu shot in Dearborn.
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