First H1N1 Flu Case Confirmed in Houghton County

Western Upper Peninsula District Health Department reports the first confirmed case of H1N1 (Swine) flu in Houghton County. At this time, the other four counties in the district (Baraga, Keweenaw, Ontonagon and Gogebic) have no confirmed cases. “The person affected is an adolescent who is doing well and recovering at home,” says Dr. Frankovich, the health department’s medical director. The H1N1 flu continues to spread nationally more than 27,000 confirmed cases reported in the U.S. as of June 26. In Michigan, more than 600 cases have been confirmed and there are hundreds of additional cases of flu-like illness suspected to be H1N1. To date, there have been few cases reported in the Upper Peninsula.

The H1N1 flu continues to be generally mild with fever, cough, sore throat and nasal congestion. But just as with seasonal flu, a smaller number of people have had more severe illness. People traditionally considered at higher risk of more serious influenza illness include children under 5 years, adults 65 years and older, pregnant women and anyone with one of a number of chronic diseases including respiratory disease, heart disease, diabetes or decreased immune function. Your doctor will know if you have an important risk factor.

“Interestingly, there have been few cases of H1N1 virus infection in older adults to date and it appears that at least some individuals in their 60’s and older, have some level of immunity to this new virus. This is likely due to past exposure to a similar strain,” according to Frankovich.

Good hygiene techniques are still the key in preventing illness with this flu. Wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitizer, if soap and water are not available. Washing your hands before eating or when you first get home after being out and about, is especially important. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth unless your hands are freshly washed. If you are ill, stay at home and cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, since flu viruses are typically best spread through the droplets sprayed with coughing and sneezing. Individuals with H1N1 flu need to stay at home for 7 days or until 24 hours after their symptoms resolve, whichever is longer. This will help to limit the spread of the virus in the community.

If you have flu-like symptoms and are concerned, call your healthcare provider for advice. There are medications that help shorten the flu and decrease its severity. They may also help to prevent you from developing the flu if you have been in close contact with someone who has H1N1. Not everyone will need to be treated or receive preventive medicine. Your healthcare provider will talk with you about what is recommended in your particular case.

It is likely that we will see additional cases over the summer months with an increase in illness during the fall/winter flu season. Whatever the season, good prevention efforts are the key to staying healthy.