Did COVID 19 Make The Flu Disappear?

The World Health Organization now reports that since the COVID 19 pandemic started, the number of Influenza virus cases reported has plummeted to almost none. A Scientific American article said that this could probably be attributed to the mitigation measures applied for COVID 19 also having a controlling effect on the spread of influenza.

Fewer deaths

The flu spreads almost the same way as COVID 19 but less aggressively. Statistics from last fall indicated that influenza infections were dropping globally, and the numbers have remained low since.

Greg Poland, a Mayo Clinic researcher who has investigated the disease for ten years, says that there is just no influenza going around. There were approximately 600 flu-related deaths in the US from 2020 to 2021. Compared to the CDC’s statistics of 22,000 deaths the previous season and as high as 34,000 deaths a few seasons back, 600 is a small figure.

Since the flu vaccine circulating this year is based on variants of the vaccine from previous years, it is unclear how it will fair if the normal disease patterns of the flu return. Basically, WHO recommended the flu vaccine in February, although they were based on less than usual annual cases.

In April, The New York Times reported that there were much fewer flu cases reported. The report said that according to the CDC, there had been 2,000 cases since September last year. The news site also reported that since the COVID 19 containment measures were introduced last year, the flu disappeared and never returned. The most recent flu season, which would have typically run until the next month, essentially never happened.

Concern over the flu’s return

With increasing concern that a ‘twindemic’ could attack the US, the absence of influenza can be appreciated, especially for not overburdening the healthcare system. Experts are, however, worried that the lack of exposure to the flu can leave Americans more vulnerable to it once it comes back. Sonja Olsen, a CDC epidemiologist, says that they are not sure when the flu will be back, but they are certain that it will.

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