Last fall as our annual flu season approached, infectious disease experts were fearful of the possible consequences its appearance would have when paired with new Covid-19 virus. However, as time passed doctors all over the country were pleased to report that the Flu wasn’t showing its face as it usually did. The CDC reported shockingly low Flu numbers in all ages along with record low Flu hospitalizations.
From September 27, 2020 to February 20, 2021 the CDC reported 1,499 positive influenza cases among the 659,131 tests administered, equaling approximately 0.2% of tests. In comparison, a 2019-2020 national summary found almost 64,000 positives tests of 493,000 collected, equaling 13%. Additionally, last season (2019-2020) the CDC found that the Flu sickened 38 million people proving fatal to 22,000. 434 of these victims were children.
So why the low numbers? While most all people would be happy about low disease numbers, one can’t help but wonder what would cause such a significant drop.
The most obvious cause of low numbers is the restrictions that have been put in place for Covid-19. Most Americans are taking extra precautions that are known to depress disease such as: handwashing, social distancing, and mask wearing. Another cause for the low numbers is more adults choosing to receive the Flu shot in 2020 than averages from the past. Over 188 million doses of the Flu vaccine were distributed this year, a sharp increase from the 169 million doses given last year. Lastly, it is believed that school-aged children fuel transmission of the Flu transmitting it not only more, but for longer periods of time. The rise of virtual learning in place of in-person classes would significantly decrease this risk.
While we hope that Flu numbers will continue to drop in the future, it is always wise to practice safety measures. These have become common-place with the emergence of Covid-19 but are always recommended no matter the circumstances.