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Widespread flu virus sends kids home from school, prompts flu shot reminders

DECEMBER 11 – The Health Department of Northwest Michigan has received reports of a significant increase in flu activity statewide. This has prompted health officials to re-issue an urgent message to the public: Get your flu shot, and make sure school-age children get theirs, too.

Suzette Daly, Family and Community Health Supervisor for the Health Department, emphasized that flu shots are especially important for the kids. Last week, the local health department in Calhoun County, Michigan was informed of a sudden increase in upper respiratory illness, resulting in an absenteeism rate of as much as 30 percent among school-age children in one district.

“Kids should be in school, learning, rather than at home trying to recover from the flu,” Daly said. “Those who haven't received a flu shot are far more likely to come down with the virus, and spread it to others.” She added that flu viruses spread quickly in schools and day care settings, where students and adults are in close contact, and getting a flu shot before the virus reaches our area can save days missed from school and work, and prevent holiday illness.

The Health Department stocks vaccine, and offers appointments for flu shots and other vaccines at its offices in Bellaire, Mancelona, Charlevoix, Petoskey/Harbor Springs and Gaylord. The cost for seasonal flu vaccination is $25. Medicaid and Medicare are accepted, as well as private insurance, or clients may pay by cash or check. Call the Health Department at (800) 432-4121 to schedule an appointment.

Flu vaccinations offer protection throughout the entire flu season, which can last as late as May. There are two types of flu vaccines: the flu shot, approved for use in people six (6) months of age and older, including healthy people, people with chronic medical conditions and pregnant women; and the nasal-spray flu vaccine, approved for use in healthy people from 2-49 years of age who are not pregnant. Babies six (6) months of age and under are at risk for the flu, but cannot be given the vaccine; their best defense is parents, siblings, grandparents, and daycare providers being immunized.

The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties.