Michigan Preparing For 2004 Influenza Season

Contact: T.J. Bucholz (517) 241-2112
Agency: Community Health

October 6, 2004

The Michigan Department of Community Health has confirmed two cases of influenza in the state – the first of the 2004 flu season.

Both cases of influenza – one in a 35-year-old Oakland County man, and the second in a 9-week-old infant in Kalamazoo County – have been confirmed as Influenza A, according to officials at the state’s public health laboratory in Lansing.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta is expected to upgrade Michigan flu activity to “sporadic” this week, the lowest level of influenza activity the federal government tracks, said Janet Olszewski, Director of the Michigan Department of Community Health.

“These cases of influenza have appeared slightly earlier than what we usually see in a typical year, but we do not have enough information to yet predict what type of flu season Michigan will experience,” Olszewski said.

Sporadic flu cases are often seen in Michigan during October and November. Flu activity typically begins to increase in late November. Activity often peaks in January, but can sometimes peak earlier or later, depending on the severity and occurrences of the flu.

Michigan received word, along with other states, on Tuesday that the London-based Chiron Corporation – a major manufacturer of the flu vaccine – will not be shipping supplies this influenza season, a move that will radically impact the amount of flu vaccine available in the United States.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 54 million doses of Fluzone - the name of the vaccine manufactured by Aventis Pasteur - will be distributed this season in the United States. Of these doses, approximately 30 million doses already have been distributed nationwide.

Given the potential shortages this season, priority groups for vaccination with inactivated influenza vaccine this season are:

· All children aged 6 to 23 months

· Adults over the age of 65

· Persons aged two to 64 years with underlying chronic medical conditions

· All women who will be pregnant during influenza season

· Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities

· Children, aged 6 months to 18 years of age, on chronic aspirin therapy

· Health-care workers with direct patient care, and

· Out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children over the age of six months.

Persons in priority groups identified above should be encouraged to search locally for vaccine if their usual health-care provider does not have vaccine available.

Children under the age of 9 require two doses of vaccine if they have not previously been vaccinated. All children at high risk of complications from influenza, including those aged 6 to 23 months, should be vaccinated with a first or second dose, depending on vaccination status. However, local health departments and private health providers should not hold doses in reserve to ensure that two doses will be available. Rather, available vaccine should be used to vaccinate persons in priority groups on a first come, first serve basis.

Healthy persons who are 5 to 49 years of age and not pregnant, including health-care workers (except those who care for severely immunocompromised patients in special care units) and persons caring for children under the age of six months should be encouraged to be vaccinated only with live attenuated influenza vaccine – or Flumist – after priority groups are addressed.

Olszewski said individuals who are not included in one of the priority groups above should be informed about the urgent vaccine supply situation and asked to forego or defer vaccination. People with severe allergies to hens’ eggs should not be vaccinated.

Healthy habits can protect everyone from getting germs or spreading germs at home, school, or work. Simple actions – like covering your mouth and nose and cleaning your hands often – can stop germs and prevent illnesses and reduce sick days.

For more information regarding staying healthy during the flu season, visit http://www.cdc.gov/germstopper.

Approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu each year, with an estimated 36,000 deaths nationally. About 1,000 deaths result from influenza in Michigan annually, with almost all occurring in the senior population.

For the latest information about influenza in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/mdch. The department’s influenza page can be accessed using the first quick link on the right-hand column.