Since flu season began in October, the Kent County Health Department has recorded over 2,000 cases of influenza and 523 cases between Jan. 20-27, according to surveillance trends.

"We don't know if the influenza season has peaked yet," said Dr. Daniel McGee, a pediatric hospitalist at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids. "We know that it seems to be worse than it was last year."

The flu viruses will likely circulate for weeks and 48 of 50 states, including Michigan, are experiencing widespread flu activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The overall percentage of visits for flu-like illnesses in Michigan increased to 3.6 percent, above the regional baseline of 1.8 percent, according to a report from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).

"The predominant strain we are seeing is called H3N2," McGee said. "We know that the vaccine is not working as well as expected against this H3N2."

Health officials are still recommending the flu vaccine, despite the diminished effectiveness, according to the MDHHS report.

"Even though the vaccine is only about 30 percent effective, 30 percent is better than zero percent," McGee said. "And it's going to be zero percent if you don't get the vaccine."

The viruses are hitting West Michigan schools. Last Wednesday, Kalamazoo Public Schools closed for the remainder of the week due to the virus. Muskegon Public Schools are closed on Monday, Feb. 4 for a full-campus cleaning. According to Superintendent Justin Jennings, the virus affected many students and teachers, and the schools could not find enough substitutes to replace sick teachers.

There have been no pediatric flu-related deaths in Michigan, but 53 in the United States as of Jan. 27, according to the CDC and MDHHS.

"We're lucky in that regard," McGee said. "But it's something that you have to watch out for and... be vigilant."

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