Friday, May 27

“Twindemic” Fears Rewind as US Flu Rates Remain Low | Flu

As Covid-19 continues to rise in the US, with a record number of more than 4,000 virus deaths on Friday, some good news comes from the flu data.

During a typical flu season, the number of people getting the flu would start to rise, with the peak typically occurring in February. Yet only 0.2% of the 400,000 flu swabs so far have been positive, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During the same time last year, positivity Speed it was 13%.

With hospitals across the country near or at full capacity with Covid-19 patients, there are currently about 132,000 people hospitalized With Covid, the minimal presence of the flu is a blessing. At least 38 million Americans had the virus during the 2019-20 season. While the flu is less deadly than Covid-19, it has the potential to strain the healthcare system during a bad year. Last year, 400,000 people were hospitalized with the flu and 22,000 died from it.

“Covid is causing incredible stress on the healthcare system in many parts of the country,” said Dr. William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University. “Even if we had a mild to average [flu] season, we would all be overwhelmed right now. “

Instead, “we are having, to date, a profoundly mild flu season,” Schaffner said.

Multiple factors have played a role in reducing the flu this season.

The virus generally reaches the Northern Hemisphere after spreading in the Southern Hemisphere, which experiences its flu season from June to August. But the 2020 flu season in the South was practically non-existent.

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Public health experts believed that measures in the southern hemisphere to prevent the spread of Covid-19 also worked to stop the spread of the flu. Although the flu is also a respiratory virus, it is not as communicable as Covid-19, so the use of masks and social distancing are more effective in interrupting the spread of the flu than the spread of Covid-19. The low number of cases, coupled with declining travel between the northern and southern hemispheres, augured well for flu season in the north.

Still, Americans were urged to get vaccinated against the flu to lessen the chances of a dreaded “double demic” of flu and Covid-19. More than 192 million doses of the flu vaccine were distributed across the United States as of late December, according to the CDC, the most doses distributed in a single flu season.

It appears that most of those doses have been used. More adults in the U.S. received the vaccine this season compared to previous years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 53% of adults have been vaccinated against influenza. Around the same time last year, 42% of adults had been vaccinated, while 48% were at the end of the last flu season.

Schaffner said schools that took steps to prevent the spread of Covid-19 – thorough cleaning, masks and social distancing, and virtual classes – likely also played a key role in stopping the spread of the flu. Children transmit the flu virus more than adults and for longer periods of time, making it easier to spread to family members and teachers, who can spread it to other adults.

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“Children have been much more isolated, so this distribution mechanism has been effectively shut down,” he said.

While there is much to celebrate about the low number of flu cases, the US is not out of the woods just yet – there is still a chance that the virus will see a surge, especially since millions of Americans traveled during the holidays.

But Schaffner said there was cautious optimism that the United States had avoided the worst of a “twindemic.”

“We remain very vigilant about that possibility, but so far, I think we are at a record pace for an off-season flu.”

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