Flu season returns, with rise of H1N1 strain

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Its that time of year again--flu season.

Over the weekend, the Michigan Department of Community Health upgraded the level of flu activity from "local" to "regional," saying flu cases have been reported throughout more areas of the state.

We checked in with a number of county health departments Monday, and it seems they're seeing it everywhere; and this year they're concerned, because the dominant strain is the same kind that was responsible for the flu pandemic in 2009.

Aches, pains, fever? Its probably the flu.

"Overall, we're seeing numbers that are pretty consistent with what we saw last year," said Kent County Health Officer Adam London.

Right now, Kent County has 230 confirmed cases of influenza, but they say that number is likely only 8 percent of the actual total.

"Most people don't go to the hospital, or don't see their doctor," London said.

While this years numbers are comparable to last years so far, there is one major difference.

"H1N1 seems to be the most serious and the most prevalent strain out there; that's concerning for us," London said.

H1N1 hasn't been the dominant strain since 2009, and it's causing some concerns for health departments.

"That particular strain of influenza is pretty serious with people across the age spectrum but particularly with healthy adults people in the 20-to-40 year range," London said.

And, he adds, that's the group that tends to not get vaccinated.

"That seems to be the age group where people think, oh I'm healthy, I don't nee the flu shot, that's for the elderly or for children and that just is not the case," said London.

And if you believe the flu shot will make you sick, he adds that's not true either.

"That's absolutely untrue--the CDC has done lots of studies on that--the vaccine is a dead vaccine so there's absolutely zero risk of getting sick from the vaccine," London said.

So he's says there's no reason not to get it; but even with it, its likely the number of cases will continue to rise in Kent County and across the state.

The good news is that the H1N1 strain is part of this year's vaccine, and the health department says its not too late to get it.