By Dennis Thompson
THURSDAY, Sept. 17, 2020 (HealthDay Information) — The ultimate statistics are in for America’s final flu season, and the information is sweet: File low charges of influenza had been reported as instances plummeted throughout the early months of the coronavirus pandemic.
Why? Researchers from the U.S. Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention consider the social distancing measures put into place throughout the nation final spring saved greater than the new coronavirus at bay.
The 2019-2020 flu season ended weeks sooner than typical this yr, with flu infections declining sharply inside two weeks of the COVID-19 emergency declaration on March 1, the brand new examine discovered.
Influenza exercise in america plunged, from about 30% of samples testing constructive for flu in early February all the way down to solely 2% the week of March 22, the researchers reported.
By comparability, earlier flu seasons in america have prolonged into April and even Might, the examine confirmed.
“As a result of influenza and COVID-19 are transmitted in related style, it’s anticipated that neighborhood mitigation for one will have an effect on the opposite,” mentioned Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar with the Johns Hopkins Heart for Well being Safety, in Baltimore. “That is clearly demonstrated within the information of the just-prior flu season in america, in addition to the present flu season the Southern Hemisphere is in.”
Flu instances have additionally stayed unusually low throughout the summer time, the researchers discovered. Solely 0.2% of samples have examined constructive for influenza on common in america, in contrast with 1% to 2% in earlier years.
These numbers ought to calm public well being specialists anxious a few potential “twindemic” of COVID-19 and influenza instances swamping U.S. hospitals this fall and winter, Adalja mentioned. If most individuals make use of the techniques that stop COVID-19 an infection, they’re most likely additionally holding themselves protected from the seasonal flu.
Based mostly on information from “sentinel” nations within the Southern Hemisphere that enter their flu seasons sooner than america, it seems that COVID-19 prevention measures might certainly blunt the approaching 2020-2021 season in America, the brand new report suggests.
Australia, Chile and South Africa all confirmed extremely low flu exercise between June and August, the months that represent their typical influenza season, the researchers discovered:
- Solely 33 specimens examined constructive for flu out of greater than 60,000 in Australia throughout that interval.
- Simply 12 out of greater than 21,000 specimens examined constructive for flu in Chile.
- Solely six out of almost 2,100 South African samples examined constructive for flu.
In accordance with Dr. Eric Cioe-Pena, director of worldwide well being for Northwell Well being in New Hyde Park, N.Y., “The info from the Southern Hemisphere is extremely convincing that we get this cross-benefit of decreasing flu numbers on the similar time we’re stopping COVID infections.”
To drive flu infections down even additional, as many individuals as attainable also needs to get this yr’s flu shot, Cioe-Pena suggested.
“I feel folks lose sight of the truth that we’ve got a vaccine for flu,” Cioe-Pena mentioned. “The flu vaccine mixed with the COVID social distancing measures might obliterate the flu epidemic in america this yr, which might be an incredible present the American society might give to well being care employees and first responders. If our flu numbers do not decide up the best way they do throughout a nasty flu season, it is going to give us much more time to deal with COVID.”
The brand new report by Sonja Olsen, of the CDC’s Nationwide Heart for Immunization and Respiratory Ailments, and colleagues was printed Sept. 18 within the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.