COVID has been the only thing on people’s minds when they see someone cough or sneeze this year, and that begs the question what happened to flu season?
“It’s, it’s unheard of,” said Dr. Amit Mehta, the Medical Director of Geisinger Health System’s Centre County Medicine Institute, referring to the unusually low volume of flu cases.
Late last week, the Pennsylvania Department of Health announced a large decline in flu cases in the commonwealth this season as opposed to the previous one.
Dr. Mehta says precautions to slow the spread of COVID also slowed the flu.
“The numbers for the influenza are down because of all the mitigation efforts that have been put into place while we’re trying to fight the (coronavirus) pandemic,” he stated. “Social distancing, one of the most important things that we’ve been doing, wearing the masks…hand hygiene. All these three have really helped us not just fight (the) COVID-19 pandemic, but also influenza.”
However, Dr. Mehta pointed out an interesting fact that isn’t talked about enough with this decline.
“The number of vaccinations that we did for influenza this season, and when I say season, I mean October 2020 to about May of 2021 have been much higher as compared to previous influenza seasons.”
The increase was an eye-popping eight digits worth of shots.
“There are at least 20 million more vaccines for influenza distributed across the country as compared to last year, between 194 million this year to 173 million-plus last season.”
Dr. Mehta says this shows more respect for the flu’s strength, and does not mean the disease is any less dangerous.
“The short answer is no. It is not less dangerous,” he stated. “We have to get the (flu) vaccinations come this season.”
When asked if the COVID vaccines had any impact on stopping the flu, Dr. Mehta said that is not the case.