February often marks the peak of flu season, with doctors’ offices and hospitals full of patients. Still not this year.
The flu has almost disappeared in the United States, its lowest level in decades.
According to experts, the measures introduced to combat the new coronavirus – wearing a mask, keeping distance and teaching online – were a key factor in avoiding the double flu and COVID-19 outbreak. The campaign to vaccinate more people against the flu, like fewer travelers, probably helped.
Another possible explanation: The coronavirus suppressed flu and other viruses that are more common in the autumn and winter months. Flu expert Dr.
“This is the weakest flu season we’ve seen since we recorded the data,” said Lynette Brammer of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nationally. Hospitals reported that this time the usual steady flow of flu patients did not occur. Dr. “I haven’t seen a single documented case of flu this winter,” Nate Mick said.
The same is happening in Salem, the capital of the state of Oregon, where the respiratory clinics of the city hospital have not seen a single confirmed case of the flu.
Considering that the flu has long been the worst contagious disease in the country, the numbers are staggering. In recent years, it has caused 600,000 to 800,000 hospitalizations and 50,000 to 60,000 deaths annually.
Worldwide influenza infection is at very low levels elsewhere in China, Europe and the Northern Hemisphere. Very low flu levels have also been reported from South Africa, Australia and other Southern Hemisphere countries during the winter months from May to August.
The situation of the new coronavirus is of course quite different, with over 500,000 victims in the United States. The number of COVID-19 infections and deaths peaked in December and January before dropping recently.
Brammer, who is responsible for monitoring the virus at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said flu-related hospitalizations are only a small fraction of the normal levels even during the mild flu season.
Collecting flu deaths quickly is difficult for the entire US population, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention monitors child deaths. So far this season, a child has been reported to have died of the flu, at the same time as the previous flu season compared to 92.
“Many parents will tell you this year that their children are healthier than ever because they are not in contact with the viruses in school or kindergarten as they did in previous years,” Mick said.
Some doctors say they even stopped sending samples for testing because they didn’t think they had the flu. However, Brammer said many labs have used a multiple test developed at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to test samples for both the novel coronavirus and the flu.
More than 190 million flu vaccines were distributed this season, but the number of those infected is so low that it is difficult for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to make an annual estimate of how well the vaccine is working, Brammer said. There is not enough data, he added.
This also affects the planning of the flu vaccine for the next season. Usually, it starts with checking which strains of flu are spreading around the world and predicting which ones will dominate next year.
“However, there are not many influenza viruses to track,” says Brammer. Said.