Are Michiganders getting sicker or just out of practice?

Cold and flu season has looked very different in recent years, as Michiganders wear masks, physically distance themselves from others, and be extra aware of symptoms amid a global pandemic.

The result was significantly fewer reports of respiratory infections, including almost no undocumented cases of flu. By limiting the spread of the coronavirus, communities have apparently also contained other viruses.

But by December 2022, many of these defense mechanisms are no longer working and healthcare systems are seeing waves of sick people. Schools were suspended because the staff was sick. Even the Detroit Lions were impressed; Sick players missed practice this week.

Doctors saw a spike in RSV infections this fall, followed by a spike in flu cases now, and all the while COVID-19 infections continued at a steady pace. Add in the other respiratory infections that cause “cold” symptoms this time of year, and it begs the question – is this cold and flu season worse than usual or are we getting sick as a society?

Infectious disease specialist at Corewell Health East, formerly known as Beaumont Health, Dr. “I think one reason the numbers are high is that we haven’t been exposed to the flu or RSV for three years, essentially,” said Matthew Sims. “As we know with these respiratory viruses, you make antibodies. And those antibodies will continue for a while. For respiratory viruses, you don’t get full protection after a few months, but you do get some protection.

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“As years have passed instead of months, this is quite possible as everyone’s antibody levels are lower than from routine exposure and supplementation to whatever you have.”

At Henry Ford Health in Oakland County, Dr. Jennifer Burgess said the increase in diseases is likely due to communities being out of control. This means less hand washing and masking, more people gathering indoors, children going back to school and traveling without mandatory masks.

“The symptoms don’t have to be worse, but people almost forgot what it felt like to be sick because we were so good at not being sick,” said Burgess, a family medicine specialist.

Health officials are predicting a tougher flu season in the US this year, based on the southern hemisphere flu season earlier this year.

This is starting to happen in Michigan.

In the last week of November, Corewell Health East had approximately 344 flu patients system-wide. In the second week of December, the number jumped to about 760. Sparrow Health said it has also seen a sharper increase in hospitalizations for the flu compared to pre-COVID years.

Flu patients don’t look any sicker than normal. About 90% of flu patients at Corewell East are sent home. About 10% need more care and tend to have other conditions or risk factors, such as poor heart health, that make them vulnerable to more serious diseases.

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The symptoms of COVID, flu, and other infections can be very similar. A common symptom that distinguishes the flu from other respiratory illnesses is a fever reaching 102 or 103 degrees Celsius. Meanwhile, COVID-19 typically presents with a dry cough and runny nose from late 2022.

Burgess also said she has seen many stomach bugs causing vomiting and diarrhea in school-aged children and their family members. Sometimes referred to as the stomach flu, the disease (viral gastroenteritis) is caused by a separate virus.

With the increase in sick patients, Michigan’s health systems have noted increased waiting times in emergency rooms and a shortage of various drugs, including antivirals like Tamiflu, that can be used to reduce the duration of the flu. Hospitals are not at the point of pressure they are seeing at the height of the COVID pandemic, but staff are taxed and turning to strategies such as treating additional patients in corridors to maintain adequate care.

It’s the beginning of flu season, and yet Corewell Health East has seen about 10 times more flu than at this time of 2019. The ongoing conversations about the triple epidemic are reminding doctors to be mindful of residents and to back down on much-used defenses. COVID epidemic.

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“It will never hurt (mask); it will probably give you additional protection, but it’s not necessarily something you should do,” Burgess said.

In addition to good hygiene, healthcare professionals recommend monitoring for symptoms and isolation when sick.

Sparrow’s vice president at Lansing, Dr. “We’re not very good at infection prevention practices,” said Paul Entler. “Protection is not confining ourselves to home. We have to be outside, but hand washing is really important and consider getting a flu and COVID vaccine if you haven’t already.”

Vaccines do not completely prevent infection, but they reduce the risk of serious illness and can lead to milder symptoms and faster recovery.

To find the vaccine closest to you, visit or call 888-535-6136 (press 1) Monday through Friday between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm or 10:00 am and 2:00 pm on weekends for COVID-19. Call the -19 Helpline. .

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