Flu outbreak on University of Michigan's campus brings CDC to Ann Arbor

Posted at 6:52 PM, Nov 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-15 18:52:10-05

ANN ARBOR (WXYZ) — It's that time of year when flu cases start popping up in communities across the country, but what is happening in Ann Arbor is unusual.

On the campus of the University of Michigan, researchers are seeing what they describe as a "large and sudden increase" in flu cases among students.

According to U-M, the first positive case of influenza was detected on Oct. 6. Since then, there have been 528 students diagnosed at the University Health Service with the flu, with 77.1% of cases in students who have not been vaccinated against influenza.

Over 300 cases were detected the week of Nov. 8 and 198 cases the previous week.

The numbers do not include students who did not go to University Health Service to be tested or those who sought treatment through Michigan Medicine or other health systems.

On Monday, a team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention arrived in Ann Arbor to work with the university, the Washtenaw County Health Department and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to learn more about how the flu is spreading and just how effective the flu vaccine is as we head into the flu season.

"Those of us who track the flu vaccine and try to monitor how the flu is doing and how it's going to affect our communities really haven't had anything to look at for a while," said Dr. Emily Toth Martin, a U-M associate professor of epidemiology. "This is our first signal of what we could be expecting for the months to come."

And that's why Martin said they are urging people to get vaccinated for influenza.

The Washtenaw County Heath Department's medical director, Juan Luis Marquez, said they are grateful for their partnership with the university and CDC support as they try to learn more about the situation.

“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.

Lindsey Mortenson, who heads up University Health Service, said it has been collaborating with county and state officials that they were able to quickly detect and identify the influenza A(H3N2) virus.

“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," Mortenson said.

Check with your health care provider or your local health department for times and locations where you can receive a vaccination for the flu.

You can also search the state's flu vaccine locator.