Influenza risk ‘moderate’ in Michigan

This article appeared in The Benzie County Record Patriot. Read more here.

Does it seem like everybody is getting sick right now?

“We see a lot of illness this time of year,” said Michelle Klein, director of personal health for the Benzie-Leelanau District health Department. “Most of the country is experiencing relatively high rates of the flu and other respiratory illnesses. A lot of people are coming down with a cough, sore throat and a fever.”

According to the CDC weekly influenza map last updated on Dec. 16, Michigan is currently one of the states with the lowest transmission of influenza, and flu activity is considered “moderate” in the state.

The CDC is concerned about the impact reduced immunity could have on people who are already at higher risk of developing serious flu complications, including those with certain chronic health conditions like asthma, heart disease and diabetes, according to a news release.

“As we celebrate throughout the holiday season, we also need to be taking care of ourselves and our loved ones” said DHD#10 Immunization Coordinator Bethanie Dean. “The flu vaccine not only helps protect you from getting sick, but it can also help reduce the spread of flu in your family and community.”

Flu most commonly peaks in February and significant activity can continue into May, so there is still time to get vaccinated.

“(Right now) it’s a combination of flu season and a lot of people traveling and doing things they normally wouldn’t at Thanksgiving and during the holidays,” Klein said. “Aside from the flu, we’re seeing RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) infections too.”

According to Klein, RSV is a viral infection that often targets children, but is nothing new, and often affects children more than adults. It causes flu-like symptoms, but in young children or those with preexisting health conditions, it can cause complications.

“Generally, you don’t hear about it, but this year, I think more people are in tune to their health and healthcare providers are being more cautious,” Klein said. “In the past, doctors may have just treated the symptoms present in patients instead of looking for the specific illness they might have.”

However, now health care providers are doing more testing for things like influenza, RSV and COVID-19, instead of just prescribing treatments based on symptoms.

The number of people contracting COVID-19 right now is difficult to measure, she said. The CDC currently has Benzie and Manistee counties at medium risk, but Klein said the true number of people infected is hard to determine because many who become sick just assume they have it and don’t test, or test at home and don’t report it.

“We also know that COVID is still circulating and is most likely going to be a regularly circulating illness that, similar to flu, will have fluctuating infectiousness and severity depending on the strain that is present,” she said. “It is not possible to know the extent of COVID infections right now because many choose not to test or do a home test which is not reported.”

Klein said fortunately, all the illnesses out there have the same general treatments: get plenty of rest, monitor symptoms and seek medical attention if there is difficulty breathing.

“The big message with all of these diseases like the flu, COVID, RSV and colds, is they are all passed person to person, and we can avoid transmitting if we stay home and mask up around people if we have to go out when sick,” she said. “I think people are getting better at staying home when they’re sick, which is something we didn’t do before COVID.”

Klein said washing hands frequently, especially before eating, could go a long way toward preventing disease.

She said people with high risk of complications may want to continue masking in public and avoid crowds this time of year.

She also said getting vaccinated for both the flu and COVID-19 is recommended.

“Get vaccinated against flu and COVID,” she said. “While these vaccines don’t prevent all infections, they do reduce the risk of severe illness.”

The Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department has vaccines for both viruses available, according to Klein. DHD#10 and local doctor’s offices and pharmacies have vaccines also.

Share this article:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest


You’ve got questions. That’s a good thing.

As parents, determining how best to protect our children can be overwhelming and confusing. We’re here to help.

Related Stories

About I Vaccinate

I Vaccinate provides information and tools based on real medical science and research to help Michigan parents protect their kids. Support is provided by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Franny Strong Foundation.

You’ve got questions. That’s a good thing.

As parents, determining how best to protect our children can be overwhelming and confusing. We’re here to help.

©2021 Franny Strong Foundation | All rights reserved

Add Your Heading Text Here