Flu continues to spread in West Michigan; 3 confirmed deaths in Kalamazoo County, Mich.

STILL UNTITLED: Flu Vaccine Cutout Photo: ZaldyImg / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 via MGN Online

At least three people have died because of flu-related complications in Kalamazoo County this season, a Borgess Hospital's medical director said Thursday.

And the virus continues to spread at an alarming rate.

“The numbers are quite high and they are reaching the limit of what the hospital can do without opening what we call our emergency operations center," said Dr. David Davenport, Borgess' medical director of infection prevention and control.

More than 3,800 people went to doctors in Kalamazoo County, Michigan, with either confirmed cases of the flu or flu-like symptoms in January alone. Case numbers more than doubled week after week over the past month and officials said there’s no indication those numbers are leveling off.

If the numbers in Kalamazoo County continue to climb, the hospital would open up classrooms, auditoriums and even tents to make room for new patients.

All Kalamazoo public schools closed for the rest of the week in an effort to contain the virus with a high number of sick students and staff.

If the numbers continue to rise at this rapid pace for another two to three weeks, Davenport said, the health department could mandate school closings and cancelling public events.

“It might go to another level saying it's dangerous to put people together,” Davenport said.

The flu is winning fight to stop the spread of the deadly and highly contagious virus in Kalamazoo County and across West Michigan.

According to the Kalamazoo County Health and Community Service’s Department, close to 6,500 flu cases have been reported this season, more than half in the month of January when the number skyrocketed.

“Once it’s in the area it’s going to spread more rapidly and we’re right in the middle of it right now,” Kalamazoo Health Department Director Jim Rutherford said.

The total numbers of deaths in the county is unknown; the county health department tracks only pediatric deaths, and department officials said there have been none so far.

Health officials don’t know why the numbers of flu and flu-like cases are so much higher in Kalamazoo County than the rest of the state.

The best way to fight back against the severe flu season is prevention.

“Prevention is obviously the cornerstone of public health and we are trying to prevent and mitigate cases that haven’t occurred yet,” Rutherford said.

The Kalamazoo County Health Department still has plenty of vaccinations available, only 35 percent of county residents got the flu shot this season.

Doctors and other health officials continue to urge people to get the flu shot as the flu season is only about halfway done.

“If we get to a point in time we're we are at critical mass there are obviously emergency operations that would be employed to address that situation,” Rutherford said.

There are too many variables to put a number, even a ballpark range, on how many cases would be considered “critical mass,” Rutherford said.


Editor's note: This article was edited from its original post to clarify the attribution of information from Borgess Hospital.

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