Michigan Association of Health Plans

Health officials concerned as flu season extends past April

This story appeared in U.P. Matters. Read more here

The severity of the influenza virus is hitting home. A child in Kalamazoo County recently died from the flu, becoming the state’s first pediatric death of the season.

Public health officials say one child dying from the flu is one too many.

“It gives me goose bumps. We have to keep these children safe,” Amy Shears, the immunization program supervisor at the Kent County Health Department, said Monday.

So far this season, there have been 19 related pediatric deaths nationwide, according to the Centers for for Disease Control and Prevention. Three were reported last week.

Information about the Kalamazoo County child’s age and exposure has not been made public, though the state health department says the child contracted influenza A/H3N2, this season’s most common strain.

The number of flu cases the state is recording is unusual for this time of the year. There weren’t any new positive cases of the flu reported during the same week last year or in 2020, according to the state’s online influenza report. In 2018-2019, the season was ran until mid-May.

“It seems to have come a little bit later. (Flu) season goes to about March,” Shears said. “It’s coming around right after spring break and traveling and people enjoying each others company. It’s untimely and it’s unfortunate.”

Though the pediatric death was reported within Kalamazoo County, the health department there says the increase in flu-related case hasn’t been a problem.

“We’re not seeing a significant uptick in cases. Certainly, it’s higher than last year, but not in previous years,” Debra Lenz, Kalamazoo County’s interim health officer, said.

It is, however, a problem in Kent County, Shears said. She added that’s more reason to make sure you’re protected with a flu shot. Doses are readily available.

“If we can get those vaccines through June 30, with this uptick in April, it would be a very smart decision to make, especially for those families that have young children or families that are taking care of elderly,” Shears said.

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