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Michigan health system warns parents about threat of flu for children

Shot of a doctor showing a patient some information on a digital tablet
BONGKARN THANYAKIJ/bongkarn - stock.adobe.com
Shot of a doctor showing a patient some information on a digital tablet

Doctors at Corewell Health encouraged Michigan parents Monday to take precautions to protect children against the flu. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced the first pediatric influenza-associated death of this flu season on Friday.

Dr. Kira Sieplinga, the chief of general pediatrics at Corewell Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, said the state is experiencing a "moderately severe" flu season.

“We've had seasons that had higher rates of admissions. However, we are slightly higher than last year, and influenza certainly is contributing to the admission burden here at Corewell Health,” she said.

The vaccination rates for children ages six months through 17 years old is 19.2% for this flu season, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. That's slightly lower than the rate at the same time last year, 20.9%. Sieplinga said the rate is “slightly lower than usual.”

“We typically see full vaccination rates of our children in the state of Michigan for influenza around 25%. Since COVID, that coverage has decreased,” she said.

Sieplinga recommended getting the flu shot. “Reach out to trusted individuals who can provide answers to the questions or the fears or concerns" that parents may have about giving the vaccinations to their children, she urged.

The flu can be potentially debilitating or deadly for children. ‘So the virus itself, influenza, can cause severe enough symptoms such as vomiting, stomachaches, fevers that lead to dehydration,” Sieplinga said. “That is often the primary reason for hospitalization.”

“For patients who have comorbidities like asthma or other respiratory concerns, a concern that we have is that those patients develop secondary pneumonias,” she said. “That is very serious and can lead to hospitalization and further support for their respiratory needs.”

Sieplinga also warned parents to look out for muscle pain, dehydration and, occasionally, seizures.

Besides flu shots, she recommended practicing basic hygiene. “Of course, hand washing, hygiene around patients or friends or families who have sick symptoms,” she said.

“Please consider vaccination for your children. It's not too late," said Sieplinga.

A.J. Jones is a newsroom intern and graduate of the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Sources say he owns a dog named Taffy.
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