DETROIT (WXYZ) — The next few weeks will be telling in Michigan’s winter battle with COVID-19 and the flu, says Dr. Anurag Malani, infectious disease lead for COVID-19 response at Trinity Health of Southeast Michigan.
As of Sunday, across the health system there were 117 patients hospitalized with COVID, 65 patients hospitalized with the flu, and 28 patients hospitalized with RSV; numbers that are higher than usual Dr. Malai says.
“We’ve seen really a dramatic increase over the past week in regards to cases and hospitalizations,” he said, referring to the flu and COVID.
“I guess maybe the silver lining with RSV is that our numbers look a little bit better than they were about 4-6 weeks ago. So some of the data suggests that we may have peaked with RSV,” Dr. Malai tells 7 Action News.
This latest round of RSV in the United States has tended to impact younger children, even leading to hospitalizations. Whereas flu and COVID-19 are generally impacting older adults.
The current CDC flu map shows Michigan is still an outlier when it comes to flu activity; just Michigan, Hawaii, and Delaware remain in the “moderate” level for influenza, where the vast majority of others states are either “high” or “very high.” Alaska and New Hampshire remain “low.”
But Dr. Malani says that map is bound to change and not for the better. Flu cases are surging in metro Detroit and Michigan, and he expects that to be reflected in the CDC’s next updated map.
The illness “trifecta” many are calling it; COVID, flu, and RSV, is leading to longer wait times at local ERs, staffing shortages at area hospitals, and even local schools.
Last week, Ann Arbor Public Schools closed three buildings due to illness and staffing shortages Friday. The previous week, Van Dyke Schools in Macomb County closed all eight of its buildings for a day due to illness.
This wave of illness has also prompted concerns around the country about the possible shortage of medications, including Tamiflu, which Dr. Malani says is used to treat hospitalized COVID patients or those at risk of severe illness.
“We are developing contingency plans should we be in that situation, fortunately right now we are not,” he said.
His suggestion around the holidays, as Michigan navigates this winter illness surge, is to take precautions when you can; if you feel sick prior to a big gathering wear a mask, be sure to test for COVID, and stay home if you’re able to.
Most importantly, he suggests getting vaccinated for both COVID and the flu.
“We’ve seen mostly influenza A, a strain called H3N2. The vaccine is actually felt to be quite effective for this,” he says.
And that’s really the best way to ease strains on health systems too, he says; because when staff is stretched thin in one department, it can have a domino effect and impact other parts of a hospital.