Surging flu cases at University of Michigan focus of new CDC study –

ANN ARBOR, MI – A spike in influenza cases among University of Michigan students in Ann Arbor is now the focus of a federal, state and local study.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention will research flu cases on campus alongside the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Washtenaw County Health Department, according to a university officials said.

The thrust of the study will determine how flu is spread on a college campus and how effective flu vaccines work.

“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,” said Lindsey Mortensen, medical director and acting executive director of UM’s University Health Service.

There have been 528 cases of influenza diagnosed by UHS since Oct. 6, according to a university news release. More than three-fourths of those cases occurred in unvaccinated people, the release states.

The majority of cases occurred in the last two weeks, as the week of Nov. 8 saw 313 cases, while the previous week saw 198 cases.

“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,” Mortensen said.

The research was prompted by a request by the CDC, as well as the MDHHS for Epidemiologic Assistance (Epi-Aid). The latter investigates “urgent public health problems,” the release states, such as infectious disease outbreaks. Hospitalizations due to flu were down 3 percent last year, though Michigan doctors warn residents of a possible resurgence this winter.

Read more: Flu basically disappeared last season; this season, it might not, Michigan doctors warn

Once requested, Epi-Aid provides technical, onsite assistance to university leaders to make better public health decisions and prevent disease spread, the release stated. The CDC research team will evaluate how many people receive their flu shots, how effective those shots are at preventing spread and identify risk factors through data analysis, personal testimony and sample collections.

The current outbreak of flu at UM is “unusual,” said Juan Luis Marquez, WCHD medical director, and it requires study.

University officials also hope the project will raise awareness of the importance of flu vaccines prior to students leaving campus for Thanksgiving break. Flu vaccine clinics in the county include:

  • 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 16, at the Kroger Health Vaccine Clinic, 1310 N. University Court. There will be 600 slots available, insurance is billed and people can register here..
  • The Washtenaw County Health Department, 555 Towner St. in Ypsilanti, by appointment. To schedule an immunization appointment, please call 734-544-6700.
  • Other local options and local flu activity can be found at or by using the state’s flu vaccine locator.

Vaccination protects against the more severe symptoms of the flu, such as hospitalization or death. County health officials also said vaccinations help prevent disease spread and help more vulnerable populations such as senior citizens or unvaccinated infants.

“This outbreak doesn’t necessarily have an immediate impact on the broader local community, but it does raise concerns about what the flu season may bring,” Marquez said. “Most importantly, we strongly recommend anyone not yet vaccinated against seasonal flu to do so. And anyone at higher risk of severe flu complications should talk to their doctor about prescription antiviral medications at the first sign of flu symptoms.”

The prevention measures for the flu are similar to those for COVID-19: wearing masks, getting vaccinated, staying home if sick, washing hands frequently and more.

Officials remind the community that many of the same tools used to prevent the spread of COVID-19 also help prevent the spread of flu. In addition to wearing a mask and getting vaccinated, it is important to stay home if sick, cover coughs and sneezes, and wash hands frequently.

Read more from The Ann Arbor News:

Same requirements in place to slow COVID-19 spread next semester at Michigan State University

Federal COVID vaccine mandate overrides employee agreements at University of Michigan, Michigan Medicine

University of Michigan to keep COVID-19 prevention measures for winter semester