Experts Say COVID Precautions Have Led to Fewer Flu Cases This Season

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Four months into this flu season and data shows us that cases and hospitalizations for the flu are down 95%. It’s a sliver of good news during a global pandemic. 

“We believe that the significant decrease in flu activity is very much related to all of the precautions that people have been taking not just here in Connecticut, but around the country and worldwide to try and prevent the spread of the COVID virus,” Alan Siniscalchi, surveillance coordinator for Influenza, Bioterrorism & Public Health Preparedness for the Connecticut Department of Public Health, said.  

“The levels of decrease in hospitalizations seems to parallel the decrease in laboratory confirmed cases as well. So we’re really at 95% less than we normally see this time of year,” Siniscalchi said. 

The decrease is significant. 

“We’re not only seeing fewer flu cases we’re seeing less respiratory infections just in general,” Patrick Charmel, president and CEO of Griffin Hospital said. 

He said the mask wearing and the social distancing may be helping. 

Initial data shows more people got vaccinated this year for the flu and the vaccine seems to be a good match for the virus.

“The information that we have so far suggest that the vaccinations we have this year are a good match to circulating flu strains,” Siniscalchi said.

But what about testing for the flu? Are the rates down because the tests aren’t being run? 

Siniscalchi said that’s not the case. 

“We’ve encouraged hospitals to do both simultaneously. Some hospitals have a system that can detect both flu and COVID at the same time. Other hospitals run two tests,” Siniscalchi said.

It’s important to know the difference because there are treatments available for the flu. 

“Hospitals have a very strong incentive to test for flu in all the respiratory illness patients that are coming into their hospitals,” Siniscalchi said.

It’s not too late for a flu shot. Flu season doesn’t end until May. 

“We’re still trying to promote people who haven’t done that to get vaccinated at this time,” he said.

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