Updated at 2:15 p.m.:
At least 10 peoples have died from the H1N1 influenza virus, according to recent media reports. The Royal Oak Daily Tribune said three residents have died in Oakland County, where the public health officer said she believes numbers are “understated.”
Kathy Forzley, manager and health officer for the Oakland County Health Division, said the most recent victims are 23, 25 and 29.
With that and other reports, the death toll is close to 10 in Michigan, according to the report.
“They may have had underlying health conditions that contributed to their deaths,” Forzley said. “But I do not have those specifics at this time. I can also tell you, the severity of illness is most pronounced under the age 60 inpatient group.”
Our earlier report:
At least four Michiganders have died from a deadly strain of H1N1 and public health officials are pleading with residents to get a flu shot if they haven’t already.
Two of the three adults who died live in Washtenaw County, WILX.com reports. An infant in mid-Michigan also died.
The University of Michigan Health System said last week that at least a dozen adults and children were in intensive care with the flu. Most are otherwise healthy, but the outbreak is causing some anxious déjà vu for Dr. Lena Napolitano, the associate chair for critical care in the U-M Department of Surgery, who is in charge of treating some of the most critically ill patients.
In 2009, a similar strain of the influenza virus was behind pandemic claimed up to 575,400 lives worldwide in 2009.
“We are seeing the same thing we saw in 2009 and early 2010, with ICUs full of people in their 30s, 40s and 50s who need advanced life support for flu-related illness,” Napolitano said. “Except this year, protection has been available since September.”
There is still plenty of vaccine available at drugstores and doctors’ offices, she said, encouraging everyone over the age of 6 months to get a flu shot.
Influenza (also known as the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly. Here’s how to tell if you have the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control:
- Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
* It's important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.
Most people who get influenza will recover in a few days to less than two weeks, but some people will develop complications (such as pneumonia) as a result of the flu, some of which can be life-threatening and result in death.
Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus and ear infections are examples of complications from flu. The flu can make chronic health problems worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have the flu, and people with chronic congestive heart failure may experience worsening of this condition that is triggered by the flu.
People at Higher Risk from Flu
Anyone can get the flu (even healthy people), and serious problems related to flu can happen at any age, but some people are at higher risk of developing serious flu-related complications if they get sick. This includes people 65 years and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant women, and young children.
Flu is unpredictable and how severe it is can vary widely from one season to the next depending on many things, including:
- What flu viruses are spreading,
- How much flu vaccine is available,
- When vaccine is available,
- How many people get vaccinated, and
- How well the flu vaccine is matched to flu viruses that are causing illness.
Review good health habits with your children, such as:
- Covering the mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing or coughing, and disposing of the tissue immediately in a proper trash receptacle
- Refraining from touching the eyes, nose and mouth to prevent the spread of germs
- Washing the hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds
- Using an alcohol-based hand rub when soap and water are not immediately available
- Stay home if you are getting ill