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Flu outbreaks begin. What should we expect this winter?

the University of Michigan’s influenza outbreak and what it means for the rest of us

A pink mask on the ground.
A pink mask sits on leaves on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Louveciennes, west of Paris. The influenza outbreak at a Michigan university resulted in 500 cases, as serval schools saw an uptick in flu cases, a dire sign of what might be coming this winter, according to ABC News.
Michel Euler, Associated Press

The influenza outbreak at a Michigan university resulted in 500 cases, as several other schools saw an uptick in flu cases, a dire sign of what might be coming this winter, according to ABC News.

The University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus in Washtenaw County reported over 525 cases since Oct. 6, as the Deseret News reported.

  • Additionally, 77% of cases were among those who are unvaccinated against the flu, per the university’s report.
  • “Partnering with the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) will accelerate our understanding of how this flu season may unfold regionally and nationally in the setting of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Lindsey Mortenson, medical director and acting executive of the university’s University Health Service, according to reports.

After an investigation, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement that people should get the flu vaccine to prevent the spread of influenza and COVID-19.

  • “Wearing masks, washing hands, social distancing and getting vaccinated for the flu and COVID-19 will help prevent the spread of illness.”
  • Per the department, the flu should not be compared to a common cold, as it is “very serious and potentially deadly,” especially for children, older people and the immunocompromised.

A flu outbreak usually catches on in October, peaking in February and lasting into May, per the report. So far, the CDC reports concluded that the flu activity is still low nationally and the department is monitoring the rise in influenza cases.

  • But what’s concerning is the low vaccine uptake this year. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services stated that in Michigan, only 22% of the state’s population is vaccinated.

The 2020-2021 flu season, historically, had the lowest flu activity. Public health officials recognize that masking and social distancing played a huge role.

  • But during a typical flu season, such as the 2019-2020 period, 39 million to 56 million cases can be anticipated, per the CDC, which includes medical visits, hospitalizations and deaths.
  • The World Health Organization estimates that flu kills 290,000 to 650,000 people every year, which is why taking all the preventative measures is important.