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The University of Michigan has seen a rapid increase in influenza cases among campus community members this fall, particularly on the Ann Arbor campus. As a result, beginning this week, the Washtenaw County Health Department will collaborate with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and a team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research how the flu has been spreading so rapidly.

Since the initial flu cases in early October, University Health Services has diagnosed 528 positive Influenza A cases. According to The University Record, 77.1% of the cases reported have been among individuals who have not received this year’s flu shot. 

Following a season with low flu activity, as many people stayed home and increased sanitation procedures during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, data from the state of Michigan reveals that the state’s residents are much further behind in flu vaccinations compared to previous years.

Researchers hope to be able to use the information gathered from campus influenza case data to predict what is to come this winter. The team working with the CDC plans to analyze vaccine effectiveness, as well as vaccine uptake and influenza spread, through collection and analysis of data from UHS patients. 

WCHD medical director Juan Luis Marquez said the influenza outbreak is extremely abnormal but has not yet affected the broader community at this time, according to The University Record. 

“While we often start to see some flu activity now, the size of this outbreak is unusual,” Marquez said. “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.”

The CDC and MDHHS requested an Epi-Aid to be able to analyze the uptick in flu cases on campus. An Epi-Aid is short-term technical assistance from Epidemic Intelligence Service officers and CDC experts. These investigations allow for the CDC to collaborate with other resources to draw conclusions for rapid predictions regarding current health concerns.

As many students are preparing to travel home for Thanksgiving break, officials are encouraging all students to receive a flu vaccination as soon as possible. They are also continuing to emphasize the importance of precautions against the spread of COVID-19, such as more frequent hand washing and wearing masks indoors, as these practices also prevent the spread of influenza. 

Students can find information here about how to get a flu shot through UHS. 

Daily Staff Reporter Kaitlyn Luckoff can be reached at kluckoff@umich.edu.