As Covid-19 continues to surge within the US, with a file variety of greater than 4,000 virus deaths on Friday, some excellent news has come from information in regards to the flu.
Throughout a typical flu season, the variety of folks getting the flu would simply be beginning to rise, with the height sometimes coming in February. But up to now, solely 0.2% of 400,000 swabs for the flu have been constructive, in response to information from the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention. Throughout the identical time final yr, the positivity fee was 13%.
With hospitals throughout the nation close to or at capability with Covid-19 sufferers – about 132,000 persons are presently hospitalized with Covid – flu’s minimal presence is a blessing. No less than 38 million People had the virus throughout the 2019-20 season. Whereas the flu is much less lethal than Covid-19, it has the potential to pressure the healthcare system throughout a nasty yr. Final yr, 400,000 folks have been hospitalized with the flu and 22,000 died from it.
“Covid is inflicting an unbelievable stress on the healthcare system in lots of components of the nation,” stated Dr William Schaffner, a professor of preventive drugs and infectious ailments at Vanderbilt College. “Even when we had a light to common [flu] season, we might all be swamped in the mean time.”
As an alternative, “we’re having, thus far, a profoundly delicate influenza season,” Schaffner stated.
A number of components have performed a task in dampening the flu this season.
The virus often makes its option to the northern hemisphere after spreading within the southern hemisphere, which experiences its flu season from June to August. However the 2020 flu season within the south was nearly non-existent.
Public well being consultants believed that measures within the southern hemisphere to stop the unfold of Covid-19 additionally labored to cease the unfold of the flu. Although the flu can also be a respiratory virus, it isn’t as transmissible as Covid-19, so mask-wearing and social distancing are simpler at disrupting flu unfold than the unfold of Covid-19. The low variety of instances, paired with the lower in journey between the northern and southern hemisphere, boded properly for the flu season within the north.
Nonetheless, People have been urged to get the flu vaccine to lower the probabilities of a feared “twindemic” of flu and Covid-19. Greater than 192m doses of the flu vaccine have been distributed all through the US by the tip of December, in response to the CDC, the very best variety of doses distributed in a single flu season.
It seems the majority of these doses have been used. Extra adults within the US received the vaccine this season in contrast with years previous, in response to the CDC. About 53% of adults have obtained the flu vaccines. Across the similar time final yr, 42% of adults had been vaccinated whereas 48% have been vaccinated by the tip of the final flu season.
Schaffner stated faculties enterprise measures to stop the unfold of Covid-19 – intensive cleansing, masks and social distancing and holding lessons nearly – most likely additionally performed a key position in stopping the flu’s unfold. Youngsters shed the flu virus greater than adults do and for longer intervals of time, making it straightforward to unfold to members of the family and lecturers who can unfold it to different adults.
“Youngsters have been way more remoted, so this distribution mechanism has been successfully shut down,” he stated.
Whereas there may be a lot to rejoice in regards to the low flu numbers, the US is just not out of the woods but: there may be nonetheless an opportunity the virus might see a surge, particularly since tens of millions of People traveled over the vacations.
However Schaffner stated there was cautious optimism that the US had prevented the worst of a “twindemic”.
“We proceed to be very alert to that risk, however up to now, I feel we’re on a record-setting tempo for a low flu season.”