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CDC investigates flu outbreak at University of Michigan's Ann Arbor campus

The first positive influenza case was reported on campus on Oct. 6 and has since exploded to 528 cases, with 77 percent among those who didn't get a flu vaccine, the university said. 
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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is helping investigate a massive and "unusual" flu outbreak at the University of Michigan's Ann Arbor campus, after over 500 cases have been reported.

The first positive flu case was reported Oct. 6. and exploded to 528 cases of influenza diagnosed over the past five weeks at the University of Health Service (UHS), the university said in a statement Monday.

A majority of the cases — 77 percent — were among individuals who did not get a flu shot this year, officials said.

Federal health experts will research the outbreak “to learn more about how the flu is spreading and vaccine effectiveness as the nation heads into the flu season," the university said.

UHS officials saw flu cases skyrocket on campus over the past two weeks, with 313 cases reported the week of Nov. 8, with 37 percent of tests coming back positive.

The cases were identified as influenza A (H3N2) virus infections, Lindsey Mortenson, UHS medical director and acting executive director, said in the release.

Juan Luis Marquez, the medical director at the Washtenaw County Health Department, said though it’s normal to see some flu activity at this time of the year, “the size of this outbreak is unusual.”

The research into the cases comes ahead of holiday break when many students on campus will travel back home for Thanksgiving.

Now officials are calling upon the entire community to get the flu shot as soon as possible. 

“This outbreak doesn’t necessarily have an immediate impact on the broader local community, but it does raise concerns about what the flu season may bring. Most importantly, we strongly recommend anyone not yet vaccinated against seasonal flu to do so," Marquez said. 

A team of CDC investigators will be on campus this week and will evaluate flu vaccine uptake, vaccine effectiveness, and risk factors for spread through data analysis, questionnaires and sample collection of patients at UHS, the university said. 

The research could be crucial and shed light on the potential risks of being infected with flu and Covid-19, especially after last year's low levels of flu activity.

It also comes as state data shows Michigan residents are behind in getting their flu vaccine compared to years prior. So far, over 2 million in the state have gotten their flu shot this season, covering about 20 percent of the state population, as of Nov. 6 data. 

U.S. health experts have pleaded for Americans to get vaccinated against Covid-19 and the flu to avoid a “twindemic.”