Flu hits hard

MARQUETTE – No one has to tell Leah and Adam Karki that the flu has arrived in the Upper Peninsula. The young couple from Negaunee already knows that all too well.

“The symptoms came on fast for Adam,” Leah Karki said of her 33-year-old husband. “Cough, fever, aches and chills within a few hours. He had it first and (then) the baby (Harrison, age 3 months) two days later and we all now have had it, including Jackson, 6, and Grant, 4, (Tuesday) morning. All the children are receiving Tamiflu.”

Monday night was frightening for the family.

“Adam was very ill (Monday) night and this is after already receiving medications and inhalers to help him breathe by our regular doctor,” Karki, 31, said. “Thankfully, the emergency room doctor gave him lots of fluids and stronger medications to help open up his airway. And he was sent home with a nebulizer machine.

“He is doing much better this morning. But it was very scary.”

The Karkis are not alone in experiencing the flu.

Michigan has been designated by the Centers for Disease Control at a regional level for the flu, one step below widespread which is the worst level, said Dr. Terry Frankovich, medical director of the Marquette County Health Department.

“This year, the H1N1 is predominant,” she said. “Over 90 percent of the cases in Michigan have been that strain. It’s an interesting strain because it has caused significant illness in healthy young adults.

“Typically, seniors and infants are most susceptible and those groups are still being affected. But in this strain, healthy young adults are being affected. There are reports about college students downstate being hospitalized due to this flu.”

It’s not too late to get a flu shot, added Frankovich, who’s also the medical director for the Western Upper Peninsula District Health Department, Public Health Delta and Menominee Counties and the Dickinson-Iron District Health Department.

“The flu vaccine takes several weeks to take effect but it’s not too late to get it. The flu season usually peaks in February but it may continue through May,” she said. “This vaccine is a good match with what’s going around.”

There is some good news, though, for those who contract the flu this year.

“With this strain, antiviral treatments do help,” Frankovich said. “Those are most effective if it is begun within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.”

For those not hit hard, there are other ways to battle the flu, including rest, plenty of fluids and fever medications.

Those with chronic illness, as well as seniors and young children, should seek medical help if symptoms persist.

“Pregnant women are also in the high-risk category and should be vaccinated,” Frankovich said. “And they should seek treatment if the flu hits.”

Frankovich said while there are “lots” of other respiratory illnesses hitting people, there are some differences with the flu.

“The flu hits more quickly and includes body aches, the chills, a fever and a cough. There’s the feeling of being hit by a bus,” she said. “With most colds, you are laid low for a couple of days. With the flu, you can be significantly sick for five to seven days. It has a much longer impact that the other viruses out there.”

Some measures can be taken to stop the flu’s spread, Frankovich said.

“One of the biggest things is hand-washing, particularly before eating, and when you’re out and about,” she said. “People with the flu should cover their cough and when they are the most contagious, in the first few days of having the flu, people should stay home if they can.

“If it hits your house, you should do a good cleaning to cut down on its spread within the household,” Frankovich said. “But again, the most effective measure is to get the vaccine before you get the flu.”

Leah Karki seconded that notion.

“My advice to everyone in the community is if you are healthy and able and know you haven’t been exposed, get a flu shot. It’s the best defense, not only for yourself, but the tiny and older people around you,” she said. “And people with young children should be careful who comes around them. And if that all still fails, call or go to the doctor immediately. There is a medication (Tamiflu) that you can receive, that did help our little baby within hours.

“Trust your body. If you don’t feel good, get help.”

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.