GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — While Michigan has avoided seeing a high number of influenza cases so far this season, health officials warn it’s just a matter of time.
According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, 35 states have reported high or very high activity levels for the flu since the beginning of October. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say 4.4 million people have caught the virus, 2,100 have died and 38,000 were hospitalized in that same time span.
While Michigan has not reported a high activity, hospitals have been seeing a significant uptick in cases week over week. Corewell Health, formerly as Spectrum Health, reported a 60% increase in flu cases in just the past week.
“We’re just kind of waiting for Michigan to catch up with the rest of the country,” Dr. Russell Lampen, the medical director for infection prevention at Corewell Health, said.
“It doesn’t take a whole lot to begin to create some disruption,” Lampen said. “At this point, the amount of influenza we’re seeing in the hospital is not disruptive to care … but we are certainly reaching our limit as to who we can take of in our bed capacity. If we continue to see significant growth, there may be some impact on how we deliver care.”
Lampen said that due to the pandemic, flu cases have been lower than usual. But as more and more people start to gather and there are fewer restrictions, influenza cases have increased. Right now, the hospital system has 51 people hospitalized with the flu, the highest number in the past three years.
One helpful solution to help mitigate the potential strain on hospitals, according to health officials, is to get the flu shot. MDHHS set a goal of administering 4 million flu shots in the state and so far, only 2.5 million have nee given. Roughly 23% of Michiganders have been vaccinated against the flu this year.
Terri Adams, the director of the division of immunizations with MDHHS, said now is the time to get the flu shot, especially with holiday travel coming up.
“We know right now that Ohio, Illinois and Indiana are very high with flu-reported cases,” she said. “So that’s concerning if we’re traveling to and from those states.”
Adams was adamant about avoiding any additional strain on hospitals this flu season, especially after dealing with the pandemic.
“That’s really our goal,” Adams said. “Give our health care providers a break if we can.”
Other ways to help stem the spread of the flu include washing your hands, staying home if you are sick and wearing a mask.
The latest flu numbers from MDHHS can be found on its dashboard here.