With today marking the first day of school, Michigan's health officials are reminding everyone to get their seasonal flu shots. Janet Olszewski, MDCH Director says, "This is the perfect time, school is starting, the vaccine is in the state, it's time to get your seasonal flu shot."
Health officials are also talking about what's to come with the swine flu virus spreading. They say getting your seasonal flu shot will prevent you from catching both the seasonal flu and swine flu at the same time. It will also limit the ability for seasonal flu to join with H1N1 and mutate. Olszewski says, "Viruses have the ability to integrate and recombine and that creates a new and different vaccine, so you get the properties of both. What we're really hoping to do is prevent the combination of H1-N1 with any of the seasonal flu or other viruses that go around because H1N1 spreads so easily....We're always trying to prevent what could be worse."
There is also public concern about the safety of both vaccines, but health officials say the process has been going on for a number of years. Gregory Holzman says, "We have 20 years of record, it's a safe vaccine and I highly recommend people to get that." As for the new swine flu or H1N1 vaccine due out in October, health officials from Michigan say it's created differently than what was done in the 70's when a number of deaths were linked to a vaccine. Dr. Gregory Holzman, State Chief Medical Examiner, says, "It is now being produced the exact same way that seasonal flu vaccine is being produced, and so at this point in time, we're still working for all the data to come back, but at this time it looks like it will be the same safety as seasonal flu."
Meanwhile, Michigan's State Chief Medical Executive says prevention is also key in this year's campaign to keep the flu at bay. He says, "Washing your hands, staying home when you're sick, things of that nature, that's what we really have to work on the first few days."
The Michigan Department of Community Health says that 11 people have now died from the swine flu or H1N1 virus in the state Michigan. One of those deaths was reported in Eaton County, another death was reported in Jackson County.