An intense flu epidemic spreading across the nation has already taken a tragic toll in Michigan. This year's virus has already claimed the lives of four Michigan children this season, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH). Although the agency isn't required to report adult death statistics, officials
have confirmed 338 cases of influenza around the state, the Detroit News reports.
The outbreak is having a similar impact in other states. In total 20 children around the country have died from the flu since the season began, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Data from the agency also shows that 24 states reported high levels of influenza-like illnesses for the past week.
Michigan Department of Community Health spokeswoman Angela Minicuci told The Associated Press that southwest, central and southeast Michigan have been the hardest regions hit so far, and the virus is "not slowing down yet."
The CDC is predicting the the 2012-13 flu season will be one of the worst nationwide recorded in a decade.
“In the past 10 years we have seen just two or three like it,” said CDC Spokesman Tom Skinner told the New York Daily News.
Michigan residents seem to be taking notice of this year's epidemic, as evidenced by an elevated amount of Google search traffic. Google's Flu Trends tracker found "intense" levels of flu-related search activity for the state, particularly for the city of Grand Rapids. The service aggregates certain search terms related to the flu to estimate current influenza activity in real-time.
Health officials in Michigan recommend getting a flu shot every year. Flu vaccines are available at local health clinics, health department offices, doctor's offices, retail pharmacies and even some schools and workplaces.