Health Care

CDC investigators going to University of Michigan amid flu outbreak

Investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are going to the University of Michigan to look into the flu outbreak on campus and examine how the illness is spreading. 

Since the first positive flu case was detected on the Ann Arbor campus on Oct. 6, a total of 528 cases of the flu have been diagnosed at the University Health Service (UHS), according to a statement from the university.

Of those cases, 77 percent were among people who did not get a flu shot. 

The UHS said the past two weeks have seen an increase in flu cases: 313 cases were reported the week of Nov. 8, with a 37 percent test positivity rate, and 198 cases were reported the week before, with a 27 percent test positivity rate.

Given the spike in cases, the university announced on Monday that starting this week, the Washtenaw County Health Department, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the university, and a team from the CDC will start looking into the influx of cases to study how the sickness is spreading and how effective the influenza vaccine is.

The CDC team will conduct its study through data analysis, questionnaires and sample collections from patients at the UHS.

“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, the UHS medical director and acting executive director, said in a statement.

“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,” she added.

The university said officials are urging the college community to get their flu vaccine, pointing to the protection it offers against severe illness, hospitalization and death, in addition to the role it plays in stopping the spread of the illness.

Juan Luis Marquez, the medical director at the Washtenaw County Health Department, said the current outbreak on Michigan’s campus is “unusual,” though it is normal to start seeing flu activity around this time.

“We’re grateful for the additional support of the CDC and our ongoing partnership with the university as we look more closely at the situation,” he added.

The university, however, said the timing of the outbreak is significant because students are preparing to head home across the country for Thanksgiving break.

The outbreak on the university campus comes after the previous winter season saw a small number of flu cases, despite predictions that the illness would spread rapidly amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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