Flu rate drops dramatically due to COVID-19 precautions

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — A dramatic drop in the number of flu cases this season — an indirect result of the COVID-19 pandemic — is stunning doctors.

From Sept. 29 to Dec. 28, 2019, the CDC reported more than 65,000 cases of influenza across the U.S. During the same period during the 2020 flu season, the agency reported 1,016 cases. 

Dr. Joshua Kline, chief medical officer for Parkview Physicians Group in Fort Wayne, Indiana, said he’s amazed by the figures.

“I think it is quite striking to see just how much difference the COVID-19 precautions make as far as the transmission of respiratory illness,” he said. “It’s very striking to see it going from 65,000 cases to 1,000 or so cases this year and we’ve really seen that pattern worldwide, not just in the U.S.”

Dr. Allen Maertin, with Lutheran Health Physicians in Fort Wayne, said from the 2019 to 2020 flu seasons, their influenza A cases dropped by 90% and influenza B dropped 75%.

“People are doing a really good job of social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands,” he said.

People were also very willing to take the flu vaccine this season in hopes of avoiding a double pandemic or “twindemic,” although skepticism over a COVID-19 vaccine still remains high.

“People are pretty comfortable with flu vaccine,” Kline said. “It’s been around for some time.”

Doctors believe if all the COVID-19 safety precautions remain to some degree after the pandemic ends, that will be good for the community as it relates to respiratory illnesses.

“I suspect we’ll see the flu come back next season, but maybe not to the extent it was when we weren’t taking any of those precautions,” Kline said.

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