This story appeared in The Alpena News. Read the full story here.
ALPENA — While coronavirus cases continue to rise in Northeast Michigan, local and state public health officials are not detecting a lot of flu activity in the region as of yet.
Josh Meyerson, medical director with District Health Department No. 4, said in an email to The News that the lack of flu activity could be because of all the precautions people are taking for COVID-19. However, Meyerson also said it could also represent early season numbers.
“I would anticipate that we will see increasing flu activity over the next few months and would encourage anyone that has not yet received their seasonal flu vaccine to get one as soon as possible,” he said in the email.
Bob Wheaton, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said in an email to The News that seasonal influenza in the United States, including Michigan, remains lower than usual for this time of year.
Wheaton said there are a number of reasons flu activity could be down, including COVID-19 prevention strategies such as the masking, social distancing, and people avoiding social gatherings.
“It could be people are getting vaccinated more,” he said in the email. “Or it could be a late start to the flu season as it typically kicks off around the holidays, when people usually gather or when kids go back to school/college and bring the virus back with them.”
Additionally, Wheaton said there has been an increase in the number of people seeking flu vaccines this year. Public Health officials have warned that people can have the flu the same time they have COVID-19, and the state health department has set a goal of seeing 33% more Michiganders get a flu shot this year. That equates to about 1 million more people, he said.
“We have made increasing flu vaccines a priority. It’s more important than ever for people to get flu shots because hospitals are already being overwhelmed due to COVID-19 cases, so flu hospitalizations would aggravate that problem,” Wheaton said in his email.
Wheaton said flu coverage is about 29% to date, which means more people need to get vaccinated for the flu. He said older adults are more vaccinated than any other age group, but that more children need to receive the vaccine.
Meyerson said DHD No. 4 will hold a drive-thru flu shot clinic from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday at the Thunder Bay Transportation building, 3859 U.S.-23 North in Alpena. Those interested in attending the clinic are encouraged to make an appointment by calling 1-800-221-0294.