Preparing for the flu

ESCANABA – While flu season has not yet hit the area, the season is just around the corner and doctors are keeping an eye out for cases.

“We haven’t been seeing any actual flu to speak of at this point but we are seeing flu-like symptoms,” said Lanna Scannell, community & government relations manager and director of development at OSF St. Francis Hospital & Medical Group.

Nationally, influenza outbreak tracking was put on hiatus when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was forced to shutdown its tracking program as part of the partial government shutdown that started Oct. 1 and ended Wednesday. However, the state-run flu surveillance program through the Michigan Department of Community Health Bureaus of Epidemiology and Laboratories remained operational throughout the shutdown.

According to the MI Flu Focus, the MDCH’s weekly flu report, no Michigan labs reporting to the MDCH have reported positive influenza cases since the beginning of the tracking season, which started on Sept. 29. Most labs are testing very low volumes of cases and, unlike the rest of Michigan regions, the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula have not seen an increase in the number of cases being tested in the last week.

“We usually don’t see it (flu) this early in the season. So that’s common, both that we aren’t seeing the flu, and that we are seeing strep and upper respiratory,” said Scannell.

Seasonal influenza symptoms include cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, fatigue, and in some cases fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. Strep throat also causes sore throats, fever, headaches, and sometimes vomiting, but can be identified by red, swollen tonsils, sometimes with white patches or streaks of pus; swollen, tender lymph glands in the neck, rash, and difficulty swallowing. Upper respiratory infections cause stuffy noses, sneezing, coughing, and sore throat.

No matter what causes patients to seek medical attention, medical staff have taken steps to ensure that patients who do not have the flu are not infected with the virus during their visit.

“All of our staff and our volunteers are required to have a flu vaccine both to protect them and to protect the patients they see,” said Scannell.

For the general public, flu vaccines are available through Public Health, Delta & Menominee Counties. Flu shot clinics are scheduled for Monday, Oct. 21, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and again from 1:15 to 2:15 p.m. CST at the Menominee Senior Center; Wednesday, Oct. 23, from 10:30 a.m. to noon at the Rapid River Senior Center; Wednesday, Oct. 23, from 2 to 3 p.m. at the Garden Community Center; and tentatively for Tuesday, Oct. 29, from 11 a.m. to noon at the Escanaba Senior Center.