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Written by Tanya Terry
Nationally, there have been at least 26 million illnesses, 290,000 hospitalizations, and 18,000 deaths from flu this season, according to the CDC.
Furthermore, according to Michigan.gov, COVID-19 is still a threat in our state. This makes it even more important for Michigan residents to protect themselves from often preventable illnesses, like the flu.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says seasonal influenza, known as the flu, is characterized by a sudden onset of fever, cough (usually dry), headache, muscle and joint pain, severe malaise (feeling unwell), sore throat and a runny nose. WHO adds the cough can be severe and can last two or more weeks, and most people recover from fever and other symptoms within a week without requiring medical attention. WHO notes, however, that influenza can cause severe illness or death, especially in people at high risk.
According to Influenza Hospitalization Surveillance Network (FluSurv-NET) data, when examining rates by age, the highest rate of hospitalization per 100,000 population was among adults aged 65 and older (178.6). Within this age group, rates were highest among adults aged 85 and older (326.86). The highest rate of hospitalization per 100,000 population based off race and ethnicity was among non-Hispanic Black persons (85.1). This data is based on a total of 17,330 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations being reported by FluSurv-NET sites between October 1, 2022, and February 4, 2023.
Michigan.gov states the best way for a person to protect themselves from the seasonal influenza virus is by vaccinating yourself and your loved ones.
Everyone ages 6 months and older should get an annual flu vaccine as long as flu activity continues, the CDC says. This is the case despite seasonal influenza activity being considered low nationally.
Hundreds of millions of Americans have already received flu vaccines, dating back to as far as 50 years ago. The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) closely monitor the safety of vaccines approved for use in the United States by using two primary systems.
Through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) system, anyone can report possible vaccine side effects. Although the reports cannot usually determine if events are caused by the vaccine, they can help determine if further investigations are needed. Therefore, the system helps the CDC and FDA with their monitoring of the vaccines.
Also, Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) allows ongoing monitoring and proactive searches of vaccine-related data, made possible through a collaboration between CDC and nine health care organizations.
Individuals who can’t get the flu shot include children younger than 6 months old and individuals with severe, life-threatening allergies to the flu vaccine or any ingredient(s) in the vaccine.
Anyone with a severe allergy to eggs or any of the ingredients in the vaccine and additionally anyone with Guillain-Barre’ syndrome(GBS) or who is not feeling well should talk to their doctor before getting a flu vaccine.
To find flu vaccines in your area, visit https://www.vaccines.gov/find-vaccines/ and click “I’m looking for flu vaccines.”
Based on National Center for Health Statistics mortality surveillance data available on March 9, 2023, 8.9% of the deaths that occurred during the week ending March 4, 2023 were due to pneumonia, influenza and/or COVID-19 (PIC).