BY NATHAN PAYNE
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — The flu has arrived in northwest Michigan, prompting vaccination recommendations from health officials.
"It's not too late for people to get their flu shot," said Dr. Michael Collins, medical director for county health departments in Grand Traverse, Benzie and Leelanau counties. "There's going to be people around with that disease for the next few months."
Collins said the number of positive test results for patients with influenza grew in recent weeks. Two weeks ago the reports showed five positive tests. Last week, 13 patients tested positive, he said.
"It does seem like it's here," Collins said. "It was going to happen sometime, and it seems to be doing it."
Collins has worked for the health departments for the past 20 years. This year's flu season is starting a little earlier than normal, and that vaccines administered in the near future should be effective for the rest of the season. It takes three weeks for the vaccine to become effective after it's administered, but that still leaves several weeks of flu season to be protected.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 5 to 20 percent of people fall ill with influenza each year and more than 200,000 are hospitalized by the disease.
The Grand Traverse County Health Department administers flu vaccinations by appointment weekdays and hosts an open clinic on Fridays.
Collins suggests people wash their hands frequently and stay away from those who appear sick to avoid catching the flu.
For more information about vaccines, call the Grand Traverse County Health Department at 995-6111.