(Detroit Free Press) - Two children in Michigan have died of the flu as health officials in the state and across the country are reporting a higher than usual number of influenza cases for this time of year.
The deaths of an infant from the southwest region of the state and an adolescent from central Michigan were reported last week to the state, said Angela Minicuci, public information officer for the Michigan Department of Community Health. She didn't have information late Friday about the children's ages or counties of residence.
As of Dec. 20, there were 149 confirmed cases of the flu in Michigan, up from 63 the previous week.
"We typically don't see this volume of cases (until) the end of January or February," Minicuci said.
She said most of the Michigan illnesses were in the southern portion of the state.
In Ithaca, a flu outbreak closed schools Thursday and Friday.
There has been an increase in influenza cases across the country in recent weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC reported that 29 states had widespread influenza activity the week ending Dec. 15, compared with 18 the week before.
Minicuci said many flu cases go undiagnosed -- and unreported -- because people who are sick don't always see a doctor.
Mary Mazur, spokeswoman for the Wayne County Department of Public Health, said the current flu vaccine protects against the three most commonly circulating strains of the virus.
She said that although the flu seems to have appeared earlier than usual, there has not been a noticeable uptick in the number of cases in Wayne County.
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness with symptoms that include fever, headache, fatigue, cough, stuffy or runny nose and muscle aches.
Young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women and people with certain chronic medical conditions are most at risk for developing influenza-related complications, according to the CDC.
State health officials recommend that everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot.
Mazur said the Wayne County Department of Public Health recently lowered the price of its flu shots from $15 to $5. Appointments are encouraged and can be made by calling 734-727-7000.