Influenza Wallops West Michigan

Parents want to do everything they can to protect their children from harm. Before the icy weather hits, many families will have their furnace inspected, replace drafty windows, or install installation to keep their loved ones warm throughout the season. After all, 40% of a home's heat loss will escape through the attic. But while extra insulation will keep your home from getting cold, it won't keep your family from coming down with one -- or worse, the flu.
This year, West Michigan has been hit particularly hard by the dreaded influenza virus. Flu season is at its peak right now, and experts are saying it's worse than in previous years.
In fact, schools throughout the area have been forced to temporarily close as a result of the highly contagious disease. Delton Kellogg Schools, Hope Academy, and Allegan's own Glenn Public Schools had to shut down because both students and teachers were experiencing flu-like symptoms. At Delton Kellogg alone, at least 267 students had fallen ill -- and that doesn't even include educators, bus drivers, or other members of school staff.
School workers took a long weekend to disinfect the buildings and buses. They'll use several methods, including one that's specific to Norovirus. Since flu viruses can survive on hard surfaces for up to 48 hours, these institutions had to take extra precautions.
This year's flu vaccine actually has a fairly high success rate. It's found to be approximately 48% effective. The problem is that kids and their families aren't being vaccinated. Doctors recommend that everyone over six months of age should receive a flu vaccine every season.
Influenza is far more serious than a cold. The onset of symptoms is rapid and they tend to linger. Common signs of the flu include a fever, chills, a sore throat, and headache. The disease is highly contagious, which is why it spreads so quickly in schools. It can also be very dangerous, as Dr. David Davenport, Borgess Infectious Disease Director, notes:
"One of the top ten leading causes of death in the United States is influenza and pneumonia, and there is always a significant percentage that ends up in the hospital," he says.
Within just the first two weeks of February, 2,000 to 4,000 new cases of illnesses resembling the flu have been reported in Southwest Michigan. That's 6% higher than the average. And while flu season will start to die down in March, you should still do everything you can to stay healthy.
If you haven't yet gotten your flu shot, you should do so immediately. Wash your hands frequently, and cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough. If you do come down with the flu, see your doctor right away and see if Tamiflu or other such medications may be an option. They can help ease the severity of symptoms and the length of your illness. If you or a family member exhibits flu-like symptoms, stay home from work or school. This can help prevent the spread of the virus throughout the region.

For full story, pick up a copy of the MONTH XX issue of The Allegan County News/The Union Enterprise/The Commercial Record or subscribe to the e-edition.

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