Kent County in midst of biggest flu outbreak since 2009

Posted at 6:18 PM, Dec 29, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-29 18:18:54-05

KENT COUNTY, Mich.– Kent County is seeing its biggest flu outbreak since 2009.

That’s according to the Kent County Health Department.

KCHD issued a press release Monday stating more than 800 people have tested positive for the virus.

The greater portion of those flu cases were reported in the past two weeks. KCHD said 74 cases were confirmed by Dec. 15. That number soared to 415 by Dec. 22. Now, one week later, that number has nearly doubled to 813.

Adam London, a health officer with KCHD said the increase could be caused by a number of reasons.

“We know that one of the strains of influenza this year has drifted,” London said. “It’s genetics are a little bit different. Meaning, that more people are susceptible to that.”

London said the unusual weather could also be a culprit.

“The earlier weather we had in November, which forces people into confined spaces, which could’ve kick started the flu season,” he said.

FOX 17 checked with neighboring counties. Health officials in Ottawa County said they’ve only had four confirmed cases where people tested positive for the flu. The Kalamazoo County Health Department said while it doesn’t have a specific number for people who’ve tested positive for the flu, it’s had more than 800 people who’ve reported “flu-like” illnesses.

The most common strain being seen this season is H3N2. While this year’s flu vaccine may not be as effective, due to the virus mutating, London said it’s still important to get a flu shot.

“Even thought it’s not an exact match for the viruses that we’re seeing, it’s pretty close, and it’s still going to lessen your symptoms,” he said.

London adds that flu season usually peaks in January and February. He said it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to boost a person’s immune system.

“The good news is, there’s still time for people to get the flu vaccine and for it to take effect before we see that peak in our flu numbers,” he said.