SPOKANE — Nobody has died from influenza but in Washington this 12 months and through the present flu season.
This time final 12 months, 70 Washington residents had died from the flu.
There’s little or no flu circulating in Washington and nationwide as of the seventh week of the flu season, and there are a number of potential the reason why.
Public well being officers level to the precautions like masking, social distancing and higher hand hygiene through the coronavirus pandemic as key causes that flu charges are so low. Spokane County Interim Well being Officer Dr. Francisco Velázquez stated that whereas flu immunization charges weren’t as excessive as earlier years, native case charges stay just about nonexistent up to now.
“We have not seen any critical sickness, hospitalization or loss of life from flu within the county,” he instructed reporters final week. “And the speculation behind that’s the precautions we’re taking for COVID are additionally useful towards the flu, which has, in some ways, the same transmission technique. So the truth that we have been this diligent with public well being measures is the primary motive we’ve got not seen any important influence of the flu season.”
Final fall, public well being officers, together with Dr. Anthony Fauci and native well being officers, begged the general public to get their flu photographs to forestall hospitals from coping with a surge in each COVID-19 and flu instances this 12 months. The flu surge has but to materialize, nonetheless, and whereas well being specialists anticipated public well being measures to assist reduce down on transmission, they did not count on the numbers to be as little as they’re.
Dr. Janet Englund, who researches infectious illnesses in youngsters at Seattle Youngsters’s Hospital, stated seeking to the Southern Hemisphere, she and her colleagues knew that the flu season wouldn’t be as unhealthy this 12 months.
“It isn’t a shock, however we did not suppose it will be down this low,” she stated.
Washington’s information is mirrored in nationwide information as nicely. Whereas there have been some flu instances confirmed, these quantity to nicely beneath the baseline percentages anticipated by this level within the flu season.
Hospital surveillance from the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention from 14 states discovered 183 flu hospitalizations since October, which quantities to a price of 0.6 instances per 100,000 folks. This price is way decrease than common for this time of 12 months and can be decrease than any charges recorded for flu seasons since 2005, in line with the CDC.
Whereas specialists suppose public well being measures have helped reduce down transmission, Englund stated there are a number of different elements at play too. First, she factors to who normally spreads the flu: youngsters.
“Flu is unfold predominantly and really nicely by school-aged youngsters,” Englund stated. “It’s extremely contagious in youthful youngsters and extra contagious than COVID, so if the youngsters aren’t going to high school, and in the event that they’re staying house after they really feel sick and carrying masks, we predict that is contributing to the shortage of unfold.”
COVID-19 is extra contagious amongst sure populations and age teams than flu, in line with the CDC, and the novel coronavirus is much extra lethal.
Final flu season, 114 Washington residents died from the flu. In 2017-18, the worst season previously decade, 296 Washington residents died from the flu.
Because the first COVID-19 deaths have been recorded in Washington a 12 months in the past, 4,956 residents have died from the virus.
Whereas the information look promising for a low or nonexistent flu season this 12 months, a surge later remains to be potential.
“It is extremely unlikely we’ll be having a giant surge of influenza presently,” Englund stated. “Having stated that, again in 2009 once we had the H1N1 pandemic, we truly did have a summer time surge of flu — it may possibly occur.”
Public well being and infectious illness specialists are hopeful that continued masking, social distancing and the truth that youngsters won’t be again in class this summer time will assist forestall a flu surge, Englund stated.
Seeking to nations like Australia and New Zealand, Englund stated reopening will imply the return of a number of respiratory viruses, particularly within the fall. She stated getting the flu shot this coming 12 months will probably be extremely essential, particularly if youngsters are again in faculties full time.
“As we open up and as faculty begins, it is very probably there will probably be extra flu, and it’ll unfold,” she stated. “It is going to be very tough to differentiate flu from COVID illness.”
Englund, who research pediatric infectious illnesses, stated that youthful youngsters going again to high school who haven’t been uncovered to the flu or different respiratory viruses, together with respiratory syncytial virus, this 12 months will probably be significantly susceptible to these viruses within the coming 12 months.
“Many people suppose there’s an opportunity they may come again,” she stated. “And the query is when?”
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