GR doctor: W. MI experiencing flu uptick

FILE - This Oct. 17, 2012 file photo shows a patient getting a flu shot in Jackson, Miss. Flu vaccination is no longer merely a choice between a jab in the arm or a squirt in the nose. This fall, some brands promise a little extra protection. For the first time, certain vaccines will guard against four strains of flu rather than the usual three. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting widespread flu activity across the country, including Michigan.

Dr. Dan McGee of Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital said it’s worse on the east side of the state, but West Michigan is starting to experience an uptick.

Muscles aches, a cough and a high fever are signs someone may be coming down with the flu.

“It’s important to avoid the emergency room if you can,” McGee said. “The emergency room this time of year gets very crowded so it’s important to talk to your physician first.”

Spectrum Health is encouraging patients seeking non-emergency care, like the onset of flu symptoms, to use MedNow. It is a one-on-one appointment with a doctor from a smartphone or computer.

Using the service allows sick patients to stay in their homes and prevents further spread of germs.

“The important thing is there is a medicine that will help ease the symptoms of the flu. The problem is you have to get it within the first 48 hours of symptoms in order for it to be effective,” McGee said.

The drug, commonly known as Tamiflu, is by prescription only.

After a doctor sends in the prescription, it is important to double-check with the pharmacy to make sure it has the drug in stock.

McGee said the strain of flu that’s making a big push right now is H3N5.

“There is an H3N5 strain included in the vaccine this year, and time will tell as (to) whether or not it will be the prevailing strain,” he said.

The CDC says this year’s flu vaccine is about 63 percent effective, and McGee said it’s not too late to get that flu shot.

He said people who braved the needle and came down with the flu will be glad they did.

“Usually if you get the flu vaccine and you happen to come down with the flu, it’s a much milder case than you would than if you hadn’t gotten the vaccine,” said McGee.

Spectrum Health said people are getting the hang of MedNow and expect to hit 100 visits in a day during this flu season.