Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Monday, January 16, 2012

First confirmed flu cases beginning to appear

With cases of influenza starting to appear locally, university health officials want to remind the community that it is still not too late to get a flu vaccination.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the best way to prevent influenza is to receive a seasonal flu shot. This year’s seasonal flu vaccine provides protection against three different strains of influenza virus, including the 2009 H1N1 virus.

“As we begin to enter peak flu season, there is still time to reduce your risk of becoming ill,” says Chief Health Officer Dr. Robert Winfield.

Vaccination is particularly important for high-risk groups, including children, those 65 years old and older, pregnant women and anyone with an underlying condition that can weaken the immune system. The CDC also recommends that because children younger than 6 months cannot be vaccinated, their caregivers and entire family should receive the shot.

According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, “Even healthy people can get the flu, and it can be serious. Everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated every year.”

To further protect yourself:

• Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly using soap or hand sanitizer.

• Avoid directly touching your nose and eyes.

• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve, not your hand, when you cough or sneeze.

• Use tissues and dispose of them properly.

The CDC defines flu-like illness as a fever of 100.4 Fahrenheit or greater, plus a cough or sore throat and possibly other symptoms like runny nose, body aches, headaches, chills, fatigue, vomiting or diarrhea.

For faculty, staff, students and others who have contact with UMHS patients, either proof of flu vaccination, or a mask, will be required as soon as flu becomes more widespread in the area. An announcement will be made at UMHS to let unvaccinated employees and trainees know when masks must start to be used during all face-to-face patient encounters and when entering patient rooms.

The seasonal flu vaccine remains widely available, and may be obtained at UMHS sites, the University Health Service, other primary care providers and some local pharmacies.