Michigan getting hit with high number of flu cases as we approach peak season

Posted at 1:17 PM, Dec 27, 2022
and last updated 2023-01-02 20:50:37-05

SOUTHFIELD (WXYZ) — The flu has hit Lauren Springall's family hard. Her 5-year-old son was the first one to get sick.

"He's always ground zero for illness," she said. "And then it was one by one within the next day. Everybody was down, including myself."

But it was Lauren's 9-month-old baby girl who seemed to get hit the hardest.

"She's still sick. It's been two and a half weeks and I'm still probably going to have to take her back to the doctor," Lauren said, adding her own bout with the flu left her feeling more sick than she can recall in her adult life.

Michelle Heyza of Harrison Township said her fever was the worst.

"My fever is gone today, thankfully. But, yesterday, I had a fever all day and it was pretty bad. The fever, the chills, the body aches," she said.

A HealthWeather map from Kinsa shows a high risk of spreading the flu for most of Michigan. In the high-risk category, they're recommending wearing a mask indoors. They recommend anyone who is immunocompromised to "avoid crowds and unnecessary indoor gatherings."

Currently, Kinsa lists the risk level as "critical" for Berrien County on the west side of the state.

Dr. Matthew Sims, the director of infectious disease research at Corewell Heath East (formerly Beaumont Health), said influenza case numbers have been going up significantly since the end of November.

There were almost no flu cases in 2020 and relatively few in 2021 due to masking for COVID-19 and other measures aimed at decreasing the spread of the virus. But, recently, that's changed.

"The number of flu cases we're seeing is about ten times higher now than they were in 2019," Sims said. "Year to year, circulating flu gives people a little bit of protection for the next year. And with no flu really circulating around for the last few years, I think that protection has waned. I think there's a lot of people who were getting exposed who have, basically, no antibody lying around."

Sims also said vaccination numbers are also down and that it's still not too late to get the flu shot, but realized that it takes about two weeks for the vaccination to really be effective.

That's one of the reasons why people think they got the flu from the flu shot.

"If you've already been infected, or you get infected, within the next couple of days, you're not going to have any protection from the shots. And all you're going to remember is you got the shot, and then you got the flu," said Dr. Sims, adding that people who get the flu shot are less likely to get really sick.

"Even if they break through, they tend to have milder cases, they're shorter," he said. "They don't end up in the hospital, they don't end up on a ventilator, they don't die."

Now that we're past Christmas, Dr. Sims believes we'll see a bump in flu cases this week and maybe next. He cautions that we have not seen the peak in flu cases yet which typically comes in January or February when we start to see a shift from Influenza A to Influenza B - which is a little milder.

"She doesn't fully cry. She just can't get full breaths," said Lauren, who is just hoping her baby girl starts to feel better soon.

"These viruses are just affecting us because I think we were down two years without anything and then, all of a sudden, we're sick," she said. "Lack of masks and maybe lack of immunity from wearing masks."

The Oakland County Health Division recommended the following to prevent the flu:

• Get the flu shot every year.
• Avoid contact with sick people whenever possible.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
• Cough or sneeze into your sleeve or a tissue. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
• Wash your hands with soap and water after coughing, sneezing or touching common surfaces like door knobs, keyboards and telephones. You can also use an alcohol-based hand cleaner.