December 27, 2013 – CHICAGO – Nearly two dozen cases of the potentially deadly H1N1 flu virus have been confirmed in the Chicago area, CBS 2 has learned. Finding the flu virus among patients at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood is keeping special machines working overtime right now. Seven patients at Loyola tested positive for Influenza A on Christmas Eve. Five of them had the H1N1 strain known as swine flu. They’ve detected a sudden burst of the 2009 swine flu spreading right here in the Chicago area. Microbiologist Paul Schreckenberger says last week alone, 21 patients tested positive for Influenza A. All but one of those cases were the 2009 H1N1 swine flu. “We don’t know why it’s emerging,” Schreckenberger says. He says people may have gotten a false sense of security over the last couple of flu seasons, which were comparatively mild. In Texas, the rush is on for flu shots. The very flu shots that Texans Dustin Wright, and his wife, Ashley, never received. Dustin was hit with H1N1 flu strain, or swine flu, and he died Dec. 5. “You don’t think it will happen to you,” Ashley says. H1N1 is causing 80 percent of the flu infections this year in Texas. It’s the same strain that triggered a nationwide pandemic in 2009. But at that time, it was new. Now, it’s not, and the current flu vaccine offers protection. “That really is, in terms of prevention and protection, the best method, in terms of reducing transmission or spread of influenza,” Rush University Medical Center physician Alexander Tomich says. But remember, it takes two weeks after you get the shot to build up the anti-bodies that provide protection from the flu. So, the earlier you get it the better. According to the Centers for Disease Control, less than half of all Americans get a flu shot each year. –CBS
H1N1 claims another life in Texas: A Houston teenager has died of the H1N1 flu virus. Health officials aren’t divulging much in the way of details but they are sounding the alarm. “Well people should be concerned because influenza is a preventable illness. It’s a miserable illness. Most people will do just fine and recover in about a week but some people could go on and develop a very serious illness,” said Kathy Barton with the City of Houston’s Department of Health and Human Services. Or as in this sad case, die. As a matter of fact thirty thousand people will die of influenza in this country this year and the strain that is showing up the most in labs this year is the H1N1. Houston now has its first death. Harris County has had three deaths. Montgomery County has four suspected and Jefferson County has had two cases but no deaths. The flu season has been bad this year and especially bad in Texas. Officials are reporting a spike in flu cases in Texas with more than a dozen deaths in the Houston area, most of which were caused by the H1N1 strain that’s also known as the swine flu. According to a count compiled by KHOU in Houston, 13 people have died in the Greater Houston, including a teenager. According to the Centers for Disease Control it is widespread. But it has tapered off over the Christmas vacation. Officials expect to see more cases as kids head back to school so here’s some advice. Get flu shot. Practice good social hygiene. Maintain good space between you and other people. Cover your cough or sneeze. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face and if sick stay home. Health officials really hammer home point number one. “The H1N1 is covered in this year’s vaccine formulation and it’s important for kids to get their shot’s because children are infections for two to three days before they start showing symptoms,” said Barton. And the H1N1 is most prevalent in kids. –Fox
Infant dies in Michigan, cases increasing: A central Michigan infant has died of H1N1 as flu season begins to sweep the state and public health officials step up their calls for vaccination. Earlier today, the Michigan Department of Community Health upgraded the level of flu activity from “local” to “regional” because flu cases have been reported throughout more areas of the state. The uptick of cases reflects a national surge as well, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “H1N1 seems to be rearing its ugly head this year,” said Bob Swanson, director of the immunization division of the Michigan Department of Community Health. “We want to head that off, and the only way to do that is with the vaccine.” Last season, flu killed seven Michigan children, the highest number since 2004, when reporting such deaths became mandatory. And public health officials said they’ve noticed that H1N1, one of the most widely circulated strains this year, seems to target young and middle-age adults – a demographic that might feel immune to the worst effects of flu. Very often, flu season is most deadly for the very young, elderly people and those with underlying health conditions. The actual number of flu cases is impossible to know. Most aren’t required to be reported. But at least 45 people had been hospitalized for suspected flu by today in eight Michigan hospitals that report data as part of the state’s surveillance effort. As holiday gatherings continue, those numbers are expected to increase.
“We really encourage people to stay home over the holidays if they’re sick, but that’s the time people don’t want to miss out on visiting,” said Oakland County’s health officer, Kathy Forzley. “We’re probably still on the upswing of cases,” said Susan Peters, a state epidemiologist. Last year, about 40.8% of Michiganders older than 6 months were vaccinated, lower than the national average of 45%, the state health department’s Swanson said. This year, at least 3.3 million doses of the flu vaccine have been shipped to Michigan, far short of what is needed to boost the vaccination rate even to the national average, though more can be shipped, Swanson said. At least 1.7 million were administered by Dec. 20 – about 260,000 more than by the same time in 2012, Swanson said. “Here’s my fear: We wait too long,” he said, noting that the vaccine takes 10 days to two weeks to be effective. –WZZM13