The flu season is already here and poses another serious threat alongside the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But experts are more concerned about the influenza virus than about SARS-CoV-2, which has been raging in many parts of the world since last year.

University of Michigan flu outbreak

School officials said Monday that 528 cases of flu were reported on the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor campus, prompting federal health professionals to investigate the outbreak at the academic facility.

The Washtenaw County Health Department, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the university itself are working to collect more information about the cases and how the virus is transmitted and spread across campus.

The first positive case was reported on October 6, and the number rose rapidly more than a month later. According to school officials, 77% of the documented cases were unvaccinated. There were also signs on the school grounds that the virus was spreading rapidly. For the week of November 8, the school had 313 cases. The previous week the total was 198.

Emily Martin, associate professor of epidemiology at UM’s School of Public Health who worked closely with the CDC team during the flu outbreak, told the New York Times that they expect the number of cases to increase as more students begin have to take tests for symptoms that overlap with COVID-19.

Compared to previous years, the flu season was reportedly mild last year. And that was mainly because many people at the time were strictly following masking, social distancing, and quarantine protocols, considering that vaccines weren’t that widespread at the time.

This year, with schools reopened and almost every part of the economy resumed, medical experts have strongly encouraged everyone to get vaccinated against influenza before flu season. There was even a debate about which vaccine should be prioritized between the flu shots and the COVID-19 shots amid the pandemic.

For its part, the CDC issued instructions stating that the flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine “can now be given without consideration or timing.” The health department even said that administering the two vaccines at the same time in the human body should not be a cause for concern as they do not contradict each other.

Why Experts Are More Worried About The Flu

While the flu is currently only viewed as a seasonal problem, medical experts are actually more concerned than COVID-19 about its harmful effects. Historically, the flu virus has cost more lives than SARS-CoV-2 worldwide.

In a normal year, between 290,000 and 650,000 people worldwide die from the flu. On the other hand, COVID-19 has killed 5.1 million people worldwide. Should an influenza pandemic occur anytime soon, the virus is expected to kill around 33 million people, according to the National Academy of Medicine.

In September, COVID-19 was named the “deadliest” outbreak in the United States after the death toll from the flu outbreak that occurred between spring 1918 and spring 1919 surpassed an estimated 675,000 deaths in the country. But worldwide, the Spanish flu actually resulted in at least 50 million deaths.

“Pandemic influenza has re-emerged, and experts fear that the risk of pandemic influenza may be even higher during the COVID-19 era due to changes in global and regional conditions that affect people, animals and their contact patterns. While it’s hard to predict when it will happen, a major pandemic influenza is a matter of “when” rather than “if,” the academy said.

To counteract the anticipated problem, the Academy recommended the development of a universal flu vaccine designed to work against current and future strains of the influenza virus. It will take a collective effort to develop this universal vaccine that would benefit all humanity.

“COVID-19 has enabled the emergence of new skills, technology, collaboration and guidelines that could be used before and during the next influenza pandemic. Investing in science, strengthening health systems and building trust is crucial to protect people from the health, social and economic consequences of seasonal and pandemic influenza, “said Academy President Dr. Victor Dzau on Wednesday opposite CNN.

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