BLOOMFIELD HILLS — Each year, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized with complications from influenza, and 36,000 die.
This year, Bloomfield Hills Schools is partnering with Alana’s Foundation and the Visiting Nurses Association of Southeastern Michigan to help ensure students and community members are not part of that statistic.
A seasonal influenza vaccination clinic will be held 4:30-6:30 p.m. Oct. 9 at the Doyle Center, 7275 Wing Lake Road in Bloomfield Hills, with $25 flu shots for people ages 6 months and older.
Dr. Allison Weinmann, an infectious disease specialist with Henry Ford Hospital West Bloomfield, said it can be difficult to predict how hard the flu will hit each season.
“By February, researchers across the world are watching the virus as it spreads in the southern hemisphere and deciding which components should go into the next season’s vaccine,” she said.
“Last year we were lucky to have a light season, but it all depends on what strains make it to your community. The virus changes constantly, shifting and drifting.”
On Feb. 1 of 2003, 5 1/2-year-old West Bloomfield resident Alana Yaksich died of flu-related complications that caused swelling in her brain. Alana had not been vaccinated against the flu, as her age was not in the recommended range for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines at the time. In 2009, her family created Alana’s Flu Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public about the severity of influenza and the importance of vaccinating children each year. In 2010 the organization expanded to offer support to all families that have lost a child, regardless of cause.
According to revised CDC guidelines, everyone 6 months and older should receive a yearly seasonal flu vaccine. Flu season usually begins in October, and can last through May. The seasonal flu vaccine protects against three influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming seasons. Flu shots consist of a killed virus, and are approved for use in healthy people as well as those with chronic medical conditions.
Those with medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease; caregivers; people 65 and older; and pregnant women are at increased risk for developing serious complications from influenza.
Weinmann said people who develop flu-related pneumonia usually become “very, very sick.”
“It can mean being on a ventilator in the intensive care unit, or it can be fatal,” she said.
Although some people may have concerns about developing the flu from the vaccine itself, Weinmann said that is biologically impossible.
“You have to remember that it takes two weeks from receiving the vaccine to build up to top immunity, and some people might already be incubating the flu during that time,” she said.
“Although the vaccine isn’t 100 percent effective, those who do go on to get the flu tend to have less severe cases of it.”
BHS spokeswoman Shira Good said that although she can’t say exactly what month the flu tends to hit hardest in BHS buildings, she applauds Alana’s Foundation for working to keep the community safe.
“No one should ever have to face the grief that Alana’s parents have. It’s a wonderful thing that they are doing to turn their tragedy into a teaching moment for our community and an opportunity to prevent future tragedy,” she said.
The VNA accepts Medicare Part B and many Medicare Advantage plans, BCN, HAP (except Cigna), Priority Health, Health Plus of Michigan and most Blue Cross plans. Insurance card must be presented at the point of service. Children and adolescents 17 and younger require a signed parental consent form in order to receive the vaccine. Download forms at http://vna.org/fluform201213-writeable.pdf.
For specific insurance or vaccine related requests, contact the VNA at (248) 967-8755, or visit www.alanasfoundation.org for additional information.
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