TRAVERSE CITY — It’s not too late to get that flu shot.
Grand Traverse area residents are coming down with nasty cases of influenza and all the headaches, fevers and sore throats that result from the virus. Local medical officials said people should do all they can to avoid getting sick because things likely will get worse before they get better.
“Only time will tell if this has been the peak or if we’re bound to see more,” said Dr. Robert Graham, medical director of District Health Department 10, which serves Kalkaska County and other parts of northwest lower Michigan. “It’s been my experience that we’re just seeing the uptick, the upswing of cases now, and more cases are bound to come. I’d like to see people take precautions against it.”
Dr. Michael Collins, medical director for the Grand Traverse County Health Department and the Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department, said local officials roughly track influenza rates through blood test results provided by Munson Medical Center.
The season started slow with only one or two positive test results per week, but those totals jumped up to about 40 positives tests in each of the last three weeks, Collins said.
“It’s definitely a strong flu season,” Collins said. “There’s plenty of it around, not just locally but through the state and nationally.”
Collins said this year’s flu season includes a high number of cases related to the H1N1 strain of influenza, also known as “swine flu.” H1N1 is more capable than other influenza strains of causing more serious illness in young, healthy people. Hence, it’s important for everyone to get a flu shot, he said.
Kate Gilbert, a pharmacist at the Walgreen’s drug store on U.S. 31, said people seem to be heeding doctors’ advice. She estimated pharmacy employees administer 20 to 30 walk-in flu shots each day.
“We’ve been doing a ton,” Gilbert said. “We’re almost out.”
Graham said he recommends flu shots for everyone except infants younger than 6 months old.
Nasal vaccines also are available for people between the ages of two and 49, though Dr. Susan Lehman, a family physician at Bay Area Family Care in Traverse City, said people need to be completely healthy to receive the nasal vaccine.
Graham said it takes between 10 and 14 days to develop an immunity after a flu shot. He said most insurance programs cover flu shots, and children under 18 can get flu shots for free through the federal Vaccines for Children Program.
“There’s virtually no reason why you should not get a flu shot,” Graham said.
People who do catch the flu should stay in bed, drink lots of fluids and avoid going to school or work, Collins said.
Antiviral medicines like Tamiflu can help, too, but Lehman said they are primarily used as an adjunct for people with other health problems or risks of complications.
“Most of it is your body’s immune system and taking care of yourself,” Lehman said. “It’s really about rest and fluids, the stuff you normally do for viral illnesses.”