HOUGHTON, Mich. (WLUC) - As winter continues to set in, more people across the U.P. are becoming sick with a variety of respiratory illnesses.

This is due to a number of reasons, including more time being spent indoors.

“Kids hanging out and getting sick again and none of us wearing masks, which we know work to prevent viruses,” said Health Emergency Medicine Physician Dr. Robert Klever. “And it’s okay that we’re not wearing masks, but that doesn’t come without consequence. And finally, decreased vaccination rates for flu this year.”

This year also marks the return of Influenza to Michigan.

“A week ago, it wasn’t here, but now it is,” said Western U.P Health Department Provisional Medical Director Dr. Robert S. Van Howe. “It’s one of the last states in the country to be hit. We’re also seeing respiratory syncytial virus, which is a virus that impacts young children more but can also impact adults, and it can cause a lot of problems with shortness of breath and wheezing.”

According to Dr. Klever, the primary influenza strain is H3N2, and the secondary is H1N1.

Additionally, COVID-19 could also be a concern.

“The data for the last several weeks shows that COVID is on a little bit of a downtrend,” continued Dr. Klever. “But it could certainly spike back up at any time.”

And according to Dr. Van Howe, COVID-19 preventative methods are a good way to try and avoid sickness.

“These past two winters, we haven’t seen much influenza and we haven’t seen much respiratory syncytial virus, and that’s because we’ve been masking and because we’ve distanced from each other,” continued Dr. Van Howe. “We’ve also been very vigilant about staying home from school if you’re sick and staying home from work if you’re sick. Those things do work. Washing your hands is also very helpful.”

Flu shots are still available through your local health provider.

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