Flu Has Disappeared Worldwide During the COVID Pandemic

Katie Peek, reporting for Scientific American:

Since the novel coronavirus began its global spread, influenza cases reported to the World Health Organization have dropped to minuscule levels. The reason, epidemiologists think, is that the public health measures taken to keep the coronavirus from spreading also stop the flu. Influenza viruses are transmitted in much the same way as SARS-CoV-2, but they are less effective at jumping from host to host.

As Scientific American reported last fall, the drop-off in flu numbers was both swift and universal. Since then, cases have stayed remarkably low. “There’s just no flu circulating,” says Greg Poland, who has studied the disease at the Mayo Clinic for decades. The U.S. saw about 600 deaths from influenza during the 2020-2021 flu season. In comparison, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated there were roughly 22,000 deaths in the prior season and 34,000 two seasons ago.

These numbers are just ridiculous. It goes to show how much more contagious COVID is than influenza — COVID continued to wreak havoc in the face of precaution that practically eliminated spread of the flu. And it also shows how in the early days of the pandemic — like in New York City here in the U.S. — having no precautions in place allowed COVID to spread like wildfire.

Questions: Will masking during flu season remain a thing here in the U.S.? We know now that COVID spreads primarily through aerosols, but how much of this reduction in influenza is thanks to increased handwashing and sanitizing? I love the idea of making hand sanitizer dispensers at store entrances standard.

Friday, 30 April 2021