We’re nearly halfway through February, a period when influenza is typically widespread throughout the United States and much of the world. Normally, one could look at a flu activity map of the US this time of year and see a blanket of red across the entire country, yet this year the activity map is a comforting shade of green – meaning there is a low amount of flu activity. In fact, this year the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting there is very little flu activity to be found.
While it’s still too early to really chalk that up to mean much, the numbers are reassuring. This time last year the CDC reported high flu activity in 45 states. An average year typically boasts hundreds of thousands of patients hospitalized with the flu. This year, only 155 people have been confirmed to have ended up in the hospital with influenza.
What is the reason why? Well, it may come as a surprise to no one that the protocols set in place around the country and the world to stop the spread of coronavirus are also having an effect on the influenza virus. Both viruses are spread similarly – between the transfer of particles of saliva and mucus. If a person coughs, sneezes, or breathes and these particles get transferred somehow to another person’s mouth, nose, or eyes, that person can get infected.
Thus, social distancing in rooms, staying home, wearing masks, washing hands, and avoiding crowded indoor gatherings can all help stop the spread of both Covid-19 and Influenza. Still, these measures are not enough on their own. Experts still recommend getting vaccinated against the coronavirus and influenza to decrease the risk of spreading the viruses.
And even though numbers are down, it is still recommended, and not too late, to get a flu shot.