Health officials worried that flu outbreak at University of Michigan is just the beginning

Nov 18, 2021 at 11:03 am
click to enlarge University of Michigan campus - Shutterstock
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University of Michigan campus

As COVID-19 cases continue to surge in Michigan, health officials reported the state’s first flu outbreak of the season, prompting concerns that hospitals will become overwhelmed.

More than 525 University of Michigan students have come down with influenza A (H3N2), and 77% of them were not vaccinated against the flu, the university said in a statement Wednesday. The outbreak was significant enough for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate.

“Through prompt detection and collaboration with county and state health officials, as well as School of Public Health and Michigan Medicine researchers, we quickly identified these cases as influenza A(H3N2) virus infections,” Lindsey Mortenson, medical director and acting executive director of the school's University Health Service, said. “Partnering with the CDC will accelerate our understanding of how this flu season may unfold regionally and nationally in the setting of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

State and local public health officials are worried about an increased strain on already overwhelmed health systems. With flu cases beginning to increase, COVID-19 infections are also on the rise, as are positive rates, hospitalizations, and deaths.

Although the 2020-21 flu season was unusually mild, due to the COVID-19 social distancing measures and shutdowns, it’s not yet clear how severe this season will be.

Hospitals are bracing for the combined impact of surging COVID-19 cases and flu season.

“Any amount you can unburden the hospital system is going to really improve the outcomes of people who need it,” Dr. Justin Skrzynski, who has run the COVID-19 unit at Beaumont Health’s flagship hospital in Royal Oak, tells Metro Times. “When resources get taxed, it’s more difficult for people to get the help they need.”

The best way to reduce risk from the flu is to gte vaccinated, health officials said.

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