MICHIGAN, USA — The first influenza-related deaths of the 2019-2020 flu season have been confirmed in Michigan.
The reported deaths involve children from Shiawasse and Wayne counties. According to the Michigan Dept. of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), those children were infected with Influenza B. Nationally, there have been 32 influenza-related pediatric deaths reported during this flu season. Other possible cases are continuing to be investigated by state and local public health agencies.
“These tragic deaths are a reminder of how serious influenza can be,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health for MDHHS said. “I urge all Michiganders ages 6 months and older to get their flu shots if they have not already done so this season. It is not too late.”
The flu is a contagious respiratory disease caused by different strains of the influenza virus and can result in mild to severe illness. Michigan has experienced widespread flu activity over the past few weeks. A majority of the positive influenza specimens confirmed by MDHHS Bureau of Laboratories this flu season have been the Influenza B virus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), during last year’s flu season there were an estimated 34,200 deaths from influenza. In Michigan, four children died last year due to flu-related complications, while nationally there were 136 flu-related deaths among children.
MDHHS representatives strongly recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a seasonal flu vaccine. During the 2018-2019 flu season, only 46.1% of Michigan residents were vaccinated against flu, below the national rate of 49.2%
Vaccines are especially important for people at increased risk for complications from flu, including children, adults aged 65 years and older, persons of any age with underlying medical conditions and pregnant women. Children less than 6 months of age are too young to be vaccinated and need to be protected by vaccination of their close contacts, including parents, siblings, grandparents, childcare workers and healthcare personnel.
It takes up to two weeks after the vaccine is administered before the body builds up enough immunity to prevent the flu, so MDHHS leaders say Michigan residents should get vaccinated now to protect themselves before flu activity increases in Michigan. The flu shot is made with inactivated or killed viruses and cannot give you influenza.
There is still plenty of flu vaccine available. To find flu vaccine near you, call your healthcare provider, local health department or check the Health Map Vaccine Finder. For more information about the flu, visit the state of Michigan official website.