CDC is investigating flu outbreak on the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is helping investigate a massive and “unusual” flu outbreak on the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus after over 500 cases were reported.

The first positive flu case was reported on October 6, and it skyrocketed to 528 flu cases diagnosed at the University of Health Service (UHS) in the past five weeks, the university said in a statement on Monday.

The majority of the cases – 77 percent – involved people who did not get a flu shot that year, officials said.

Federal health professionals will be investigating the outbreak “to learn more about how the flu is spreading and how vaccines are preparing in the nation for flu season,” the university said.

UHS officials saw a spike in campus flu cases in the past two weeks, with 313 cases reported in the week of November 8, with 37 percent of tests positive.

The cases were identified as influenza A (H3N2) viral infections, Lindsey Mortenson, UHS Medical Director and Acting Executive Director, said in the press release.

Juan Luis Marquez, the medical director of the Washtenaw County Health Department, said while it was normal to see some flu activity at this time of year, “the scale of this outbreak is unusual”.

The cases are investigated before the holidays, when many students are traveling home on campus for Thanksgiving.

Now officials are calling on the entire community to get the flu vaccinated as soon as possible.

“This outbreak may not have an immediate impact on the wider local community, but it does give cause for concern about what the flu season could bring. Most importantly, we strongly recommend anyone who has not yet been vaccinated against seasonal flu to do so, “Marquez said.

A team of CDC investigators will be on campus this week and evaluate flu vaccine uptake, vaccine effectiveness and risk factors for spread through data analysis, questionnaires and patient sampling at UHS, the university said.

The research could be crucial in shedding light on the potential risks of getting infected with flu and Covid-19, especially after the low level of flu activity over the past year.

It also comes because state data shows Michigan residents are lagging behind when they get their flu vaccine compared to previous years. So far this season, over 2 million people in the state have vaccinated against the flu, which covers about 20 percent of the state’s population, according to November 6 data.

US health experts have urged Americans to get vaccinated against Covid-19 and the flu in order to avoid “twindemia”.

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