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Illness on the rise across Ottawa County

Rose White • Jan 31, 2017 at 2:00 PM

It’s that time of year when everyone seems to be battling colds and/or the flu.

It’s not your imagination. In Ottawa County, these typical winter illnesses are on the increase.

The Ottawa County Department of Public Health is warning that the flu and viral gastroenteritis (the stomach flu) are circulating in many West Michigan communities right now.

“We are in the peak part of the season,” said health department spokeswoman Kristina Weighmink. The increase is “consistent with previous years, but it’s just more prevalent right now,” she added.

According to the 2016-17 Ottawa County Flu Season Report, the number of reported flu-like cases is slightly higher than the average of the previous three flu seasons. But these levels are normal, even if unwanted.

The report also compares this flu season to last year’s. The number of flu-like illnesses is higher this month than it was in January 2016.

“We’re boxed indoors with each other, so it’s easy to pass from one person to another,” Weighmink said.

The number of flu cases “usually starts to decline around February,” she said. “Right now, we’re just getting over that hurdle.”

Weighmink offers the following tips on how to stay healthy during the winter:

— Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

— If you’re sick, stay home.

— Make sure to cover your mouth and nose if you are coughing or sneezing.

— Wash your hands frequently.

— Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. 

— Be aware of germs by disinfecting areas that may be contaminated.

Most importantly, according to Weighmink: “Wash your hands. I can’t stress that enough.”

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