Imagine a world with no coronavirus pandemic. Pretty nice, right?
Now, imagine that same world but with a vast majority of people taking the same precautions they have over the last 12 months.
In other words, avoiding crowds and social distancing. Plus mask-wearing, frequent hand washing and little travel. But no pandemic.
It’s very likely the number of seasonal flu cases and deaths would be dramatically reduced if that occurred. And that’s exactly what has happened.
Inauguration Day Is Deadliest
More on that in a moment. First, here’s a coronavirus update.
As part of the recent Joe Biden presidential inauguration ceremony, 400 lights illuminated the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.
Each light represented 1,000 Americans who have died due to the pandemic. In addition, tens of millions of Americans have tested positive for the virus.
Ironically, inauguration day was the deadliest day for the U.S. since the start of the pandemic. A total of 4,131 deaths were recorded.
Alternating Hot Spots
As has been the case throughout the pandemic, hot spots change on a regular basis. Recently, states seeing the highest rise in cases include Vermont, Virginia and Kentucky.
Some states have strict travel restrictions in place. Including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Plus Iowa, Kansas and New Mexico.
Despite being two of the biggest states, Florida and Texas have no travel restrictions.
More than one-half of the 50 states have facemask requirements for those entering public places.
Hospitalizations Down… But Not Out
If there is any silver lining, it’s that hospitalizations have decreased recently in most areas.
Of course, this could change by the time you read this. But coronavirus hospitalizations peaked in mid-December. And they’ve slowly but steadily dropped since then.
The number of hospitalizations is still far too high. A vast majority of the patients are 50 and older. Those 75 and older are especially affected.
Hospitals remain under considerable stress in some areas of the country. Recently, Arizona, Nevada and Georgia had the highest per capita rate of hospitalizations.
Precautions Lower Flu Spread
Back to the lower number of recorded flu cases this season. The immediate question is, “Why?”
There are several reasons for this. The most obvious is that people have taken precautions like they never have before.
Such as mask wearing and frequent hand washing. As well as avoiding crowded places and staying six feet away from others. Not to mention stay-at-home orders in some places. And the lack of international travel.
Dr. Ellen F. Foxman is an immunologist and a physician at Yale Medicine Laboratory. She predicted this. “It is possible that the mitigation measures for (the coronavirus) will help curb the spread of flu. Since these viruses are transmitted in similar ways.”
That was certainly the case in the Southern Hemisphere. They had significantly fewer flu cases during their 2020 winter.
Fewer Flu Tests a Factor
In addition, more adults received the seasonal flu vaccine this season than before. Approximately 20 million more doses of flu vaccine have been distributed this season than at this time last year. The goal was to avoid a “twindemic.”
Another reason there are fewer reported flu cases this season is this. People with flu-like symptoms are getting tested for the coronavirus.
If that test comes back negative, they assume they have the flu or some other virus. And then they wait it out until they feel better. They often don’t bother getting tested for the flu as they would have in previous years.
Yet another reason is that children often spread the flu at school. Then they bring it home to family members. Some schools closed. Others took unprecedented precautions. So there is less of that happening.
Did Colds Help Immunity?
Regardless of what has caused lower flu numbers this season, it’s been welcome news for healthcare workers and hospitals.
Both have been overwhelmed in many areas of the country. Had this been a typical season for flu infections, things would have been even worse.
On the other hand, a much better than normal flu season this year could make creating a flu vaccine for next season more difficult.
Here’s one oddity medical experts are trying to figure out. Many adults who experienced cold symptoms over the previous 12 months were less likely to test positive for the coronavirus.
Coronavirus Is Still Out There – and Surging
Now, just because the reported number of flu cases is lower this season, that doesn’t mean the coronavirus is not a continuing threat.
The number of confirmed cases and deaths continues to surge.
Sonja Olsen is an epidemiologist at the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, part of the CDC.
With so many unknowns surrounding these viruses, Olsen stated, “It’s best to be prepared.”
Boost Your Immune System
Regardless of whether you are trying to avoid the coronavirus, the flu or other viruses, the strategy is the same.
Wash your hands frequently. Practice social distancing. Avoid crowds. Wear a facemask in public. Limit your travel.
In addition, eat and drink foods and beverages that will boost your immune system. The stronger your immune system is, the better you’re able to fight off illnesses.