GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - The number of confirmed flu cases in Kent County has increased dramatically, prompting health department officials to urge vaccination.
There were 242 confirmed cases of influenza at Kent County hospitals between September and December 2012. There were only six confirmed cases during that same time period in 2011.
The 2012 figure reflects only confirmed cases, but Kent County Health Department spokeswoman Lisa LaPlante said there have been 17,000 reports of flu-like symptoms since September, and it's likely even more people have simply sought over-the-counter treatment.
A third child from Michigan has died from the flu this season, according to state health officials. One of those deaths occurred in December 2012 in Kalamazoo County.
Flu cases typically peak during the holidays, but Kent County has seen a higher number of cases earlier than usual this flu season, according to the Kent County Health Department.
Kalamazoo County also said Thursday that it has also seen an increase in the number of cases compared to last season, but did not have precise numbers.
Flu symptoms include fever, cough and/or sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, headaches, fatigue, according to the health department. Vomiting and diarrhea are more common in children than adults.
It's been tough for Jennifer Cunningham to breathe easily lately. She has been sick with flu-like symptoms for two weeks.
"My daughter and I have both been sick," she said. "Can't sleep at night because we can't lay down."
24 Hour News 8 asked viewers last week if they were sick with the flu. Cunningham was sick then and was among those who responded.
"And we're still sick. I was hoping we'd better for Christmas, then I was hoping we'd be better for my daughter's birthday," she said.
Cunningham's 6-year-old daughter, Ella, did not get her party last week. Instead, she and mom have been stuck with the classic flu-like symptoms.
"We were running fevers between 101 and 103 for like four or five days," Cunningham said.
The health department is urging people to get vaccinated for the flu; particularly pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems, the very young, the elderly, and the caretakers of babies too young to be vaccinated.
Cunningham told 24 Hour News 8 that her family usually gets flu shots each January.
"But we did not get there yet this year," she said.
And she didn't expect the flu before -- or during -- her holidays.
"This season, 98% of the confirmed flu cases are either Type A or Type B strains of Influenza, which are both found in this year's vaccine," Kent County Health Department Administrative Health Officer Cathy Raevsky said in a Wednesday news release. "In the coming days, many children will be going back to school after the holiday break, so we anticipate the numbers will continue to climb. If you haven't gotten a flu shot or nasal mist for you or your family, now is an ideal time to vaccinate."
It may take about two weeks for the vaccine to become effective, according to the health department.
The health department also recommends staying home from work if you're sick to prevent spreading the illness.
The Kent County Health Department offers vaccine injections for $25 and nasal mist for $32. Those wishing to make an appointment should call 616.632.7200.
Kent County Health Department flu information and prevention tips
Michigan Department of Community Health flu information and prevention tips
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