Influenza Season is Here: Michigan Health Centers are Increasing Awareness and Fighting the Flu

The annual flu season is back and work has begun to ensure everyone older than 6 months of age is immunized. Getting a flu vaccine is easy and THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP to reduce the chance of getting the seasonal flu and spreading the viruses that cause it. That’s why Michigan Health Centers are working hard to increase awareness of the vaccine’s benefits and providing opportunities for patients, staff, families, and communities to protect themselves against the flu.

The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming flu season.  When more people get vaccinated against influenza, less flu can spread from person to person and throughout communities.

While it’s especially important to protect those who are at high risk from developing serious complications if they get the flu—such as individuals with asthma, children under the age of 5, adults over 65—even the healthiest among us are at risk for getting severely or fatally sick. According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, about half of the seven influenza-associated pediatric deaths in Michigan during the 2012-13 flu season involved previously healthy children who had no risk factors for severe disease. Getting immunized is critical!

Health Centers are ideal places to get the flu vaccine. Their doors are open to everyone, regardless of insurance status or income level, and they are trusted providers of primary and preventive care, and sources of health and wellness information. At Cherry Street Health Services’ network of West Michigan Health Centers, patients are reminded through in-house educational television programming and signage to get the flu vaccine.

MidMichigan Community Health Services (MCHS) is working collaboratively with community partners to educate and engage residents of Houghton Lake, Roscommon, Beaverton, and surrounding areas. The Health Center provides flu vaccines at larger businesses right in their own establishments. MCHS is also hosting flu clinics at group homes and senior living complexes, and beginning in November it will launch its own walk-in flu clinics with no appointments necessary.

Bay Mills Health Center in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is also focused on combating influenza with a community-wide approach.

“We are hosting six flu clinics at Bay Mills Resort and Casino, Bay Mills Health Center, and our senior center through December. The clinics are open to all people in the community—not just Bay Mills Health Center patients,” said Jillian LeBlanc, Community Health Coordinator, Bay Mills Health Center.

Health Centers are also focused on ensuring their health care providers and staff are vaccinated. This helps protect clients and the people they come into contact with. It’s truly a ripple-down effect.

Community Health and Social Services Center (CHASS), serving Southwest Detroit, requires that all staff get vaccinated unless they have a religious or moral objection. To that end, it is holding an all-staff flu vaccine clinic on November 15.

Whether it be vaccinating staff, having a standing order to immunize clients who arrive for an appointment, setting aside time to administer the vaccine during walk-in hours, hosting community-wide flu clinics, or reminding patients during visits and via eye-catching posters to get their flu vaccine, Michigan Health Centers are doing their part to fight the flu.

For more information about the 2013-14 influenza season, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the Michigan Department of Community Health. These websites provide a wealth of resources, from posters, to videos, to fact sheets. To find a Health Center near you, visit http://findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov/.

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