January 09, 2013 - In the first 10 days of the new year, the number of patients seen at M-15 Urgent Care has doubled over the same time period last year.
Nena Woodall, office manager of the facility located at 250 N. Ortonville Road in Groveland Township attributes the high numbers to area residents who are suffering from a virulent strain of influenza.
"A lot of people are sick right now for sure," said Woodall on Thursday.
"There is a lot of demand for the flu vaccine right now and it's usually not like that at this time of year."
According to the Oakland County Health Division, to date this flu season, there have been 18 pediatric deaths nationwide and four in Michigan.
Woodall and OCHD Manager/Health Officer Kathy Forzley urge residents to obtain a flu vaccine.
"Everyone should take the proper precautions such as getting a flu shot, washing their hands often with soap and water, staying hydrated by drinking water, and getting enough sleep," said Forzley. "If you do get sick, residents are advised to call their medical doctor or urgent care immediately. Avoid visiting the emergency room unless you are extremely ill or advised to go by your physician."
Flu can be spread to others from a distance up to six feet, mainly by droplets made when infected persons cough, sneeze or talk. People can also contract flu by touching a surface or object with the virus on it, and then touching their own eyes, nose or mouth.
Symptoms of the flu include cough, fever/chills, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
The flu typically comes on suddenly and can cause mild to severe illness that can result in death. Children, the elderly, and pregnant women, all of whom often have weaker immune systems, are most at risk. Forzley recommends that people who are around these high-risk populations get the vaccine. The general recommendation is that all individuals six months and older be vaccinated against seasonal flu every year.
"Compared to recent years, we are seeing early flu activity, although it is still within normal range. We have seen peaks as early as October and as late as March in the past. It's best to get your flu shot as soon as possible as it takes two weeks after the vaccination for the body to develop protection," said Forzley.
Woodall said that most of the patients seen at M-15 Urgent Care have had the flu progress to a bacterial infection that the body needs help in fighting. Doctors treat the infection with antibiotics. She urges anyone displaying symptoms to see their health care provider immediately as this season, the flu has become particularly widespread.
"Everyone should get a vaccine, it's better to be safe than sorry," she said.
A flu vaccine can be obtained at the M-15 Urgent Care, 250 N. Ortonville Road for $20. M-15 Urgent Care is open 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information, call 248-793-7113. The vaccine is available at the OCHD offices for $16. Offices are located at 1200 N. Telegraph Road, Building 34 East, Pontiac, and 27725 Greenfield Road, Southfield. Hours are noon – 8 p.m. Monday and 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. 248-858-7350 (Pontiac) or 248-424-7120 (Southfield). Walk-in appointments are welcome. Walk-in payment options include Medicare, Medicaid and cash (no credit cards, checks or money orders).
For more information, call OCHD's flu hotline at 1-800-434-3358 or nurse on call at 800-848-5533.
Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville