The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is asking Michiganders to get their flu and COVID-19 vaccinations, wear masks in indoor settings, social distance when possible and stay home when they are ill to prevent additional outbreaks of the flu and COVID-19.

“As we head into respiratory virus season, it is important to take every mitigation measure we can to prevent outbreaks of the flu, RSV and COVID-19,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, chief medical executive. “Wearing masks, washing hands, social distancing and getting vaccinated for the flu and COVID-19 will help prevent the spread of illness. COVID-19 vaccines and flu vaccines can be administered at the same time, and we encourage all eligible Michiganders to get theirs as soon as possible.”

A recent outbreak involving more than 525 cases of influenza A (H3N2) among University of Michigan students is currently being investigated by public health officials. This outbreak comes at a time when COVID-19 infections are again surging in Michigan, with case rates, positivity rates, hospitalizations and deaths all increasing. State and local public health officials are concerned with the potential for increased strain on health systems if COVID-19 and influenza cases surge at the same time this winter.

Data from MDHHS’s flu vaccine dashboard show that influenza vaccine administrations are down versus previous seasons. As of Nov. 6, a little over 2 million doses of flu vaccine have been administered, about a 26% decrease from this time last year. Last flu season, approximately 3.5 million people in Michigan received a flu vaccine as reported to the Michigan Care Improvement Registry. The state has set a goal of vaccinating 4 million Michiganders for the 2021-2022 flu season.

Despite its comparison to the common cold, the flu is a very serious and potentially deadly disease, especially for children, older people and people with chronic health conditions.

During a typical flu season like the 2019-2020 flu season, the nation recorded 39 to 56 million estimated cases of the flu, 18 to 26 million medical visits due to the flu and nearly half a million flu hospitalizations. The flu vaccine is the best way to reduce risk from the seasonal flu and its potential serious complications. Each year flu vaccination reduces the burden of influenza significantly in the United States preventing millions of illnesses and thousands of hospitalizations and deaths.

The 2020-2021 flu season was unique in many ways, resulting in historically low flu activity for the entire season. Public health professionals indicate that community mitigation measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic such as masking and social distancing and influenza vaccination could have contributed to the below average amount of influenza cases last season.

Both COVID-19 and flu vaccines are available now at local health departments, physician offices and pharmacies around the state.