Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

No flu

I would never say that there was any such thing as a silver lining to the COVID pandemic, but it is true that basically nobody died from the flu this year because of masking and social distancing.

What medical officials worried would be a “twindemic” at the end of last year — the concurrence of influenza and COVID-19 sicknesses overwhelming Houston’s hospitals — turned out surprisingly well.

At Memorial Hermann, just three patients tested positive for influenza during the 2020-2021 flu season, compared to 983 patients during the 2019-2020 flu season. Doctors test for both flu and COVID-19 as a precaution.

The same public health measures that prevent SARS-CoV-2 from spreading — masks, social distancing and regular hand-washing — kept influenza strains from sickening people.

“When we were looking internally, we just weren’t seeing flu,” said Dr. James McCarthy, chief executive physician at Memorial Hermann.

Flu infections are down nationwide, with a hospitalization rate of 0.7 per 100,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During the last flu season, the rate was nearly 100 times higher — 66.1 per 100,000 patients. Pediatric deaths also decreased, from 189 last year to one this year.

[…]

Researchers wondered whether being infected with the coronavirus would wipe out the chances of getting the flu, and say it may be a factor that contributed equally to declining flu rates.

“Part of it is because we had a worse virus that was spreading faster,” McCarthy said.

Knowing to wear masks and get a flu vaccine could be a huge step toward eradicating deadly flu seasons. But will people continue to practice those public health measures? Doctors don’t know.

“We’re recognizing that not only can we protect our friends and loved ones from COVID, but we can also do it from influenza with precautions for medically vulnerable folks,” McCarthy said.

I’ve gotten a flu shot every year for as long as I can remember, and as far as I know I’ve never gotten the flu. I will certainly continue to get those vaccines as before, and I’d strongly consider wearing a mask during the flu season going forward when doing things like grocery shopping. Hard to see any reason why not to at this point.

Related Posts:

6 Comments

  1. Jason Hochman says:

    We need to research why masks and social distance were so effective at stopping colds and flu but didn’t stop Covid. If I can have a few million dollars I will start researching this in my laboratory in the backyard.

  2. Manny says:

    Jason, you get a reward for misinformation, go join Fox News.

  3. policywonqueria says:

    NOT IN YOUR BACKYARD

    For folks more seriously interested in COVID-19 vs. influenza transmission (and other contagious diseases), start here:

    Mikszewski, A., et al., THE AIRBORNE CONTAGIOUSNESS OF RESPIRATORY VIRUSES: A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR MITIGATION. medRxiv, 2021. doi:
    https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.01.26.21250580 .

    Results: Median standing and speaking ERq [quanta emission rate] estimate for SARS-CoV- 2 is similar to active, untreated TB, higher than seasonal influenza, and lower than measles virus. Predictive ERq estimates are consistent with the range of values reported over decades of research. In congregate settings, current ventilation standards are unlikely to control the spread of viruses with upper quartile ERq values above 10 quanta h-1, such as SARS-CoV-2, indicating the need for additional control measures.

    SURVEY OF RELEVANT RESEARCH LITERATURE ON COMPARATIVE CONTAGEOUSNESS

    Karimzadeh, S., Bhopal, R., & Huy, N. (2021). Review of infective dose, routes of transmission, and outcome of COVID-19 caused by the SARS-COV-2: Comparison with other respiratory viruses. Epidemiology and Infection, 1-22. doi:10.1017/S0950268821000790
    [Accepted Manuscript for Epidemiology & Infection, 22 pages in PDF].
    Published online by Cambridge University Press April 14, 2021

  4. Jason Hochman says:

    Manny I have not given any misinformation. I think that it is a good question: if we claim that masks and social distance eliminated colds and influenza then WHY did they not eliminate Covid, and can we get a good answer to that question. Maybe it is true. Maybe it is not. Get a flu shot and wear a mask forever, if you wish.

  5. mollusk says:

    I Am Not A Virologist, but as a wild guess perhaps the difference between flu and covid rates can be explained by wider flu vaccination acceptance, earlier flu vaccinations, and/or that covid is more easily transmitted.

  6. Manny says:

    Jason, you are a liar.

    Jason, you keep pushing the same misinformation that Russian trolls push.

    Jason, you claim to be a great scientist. Why is it that flu deaths were down?

    Don’t wear a mask, don’t get a vaccine, but don’t go to the hospital if you get sick. Die like the great macho you are.

    But you are a liar, Jason.