February 20, 2021


Did Coronavirus Wipe Out the Flu Season?: Because of anti-coronavirus measures, flu cases were down worldwide. (Stephen Silver, 2/20/21, National Interest)

The Centers For Disease Control (CDC) said last week that, as of the end of January, there were 1,316 positive flu cases since September. That's compared to 129,997 positive cases of the flu the year before. 

What's the difference? The coronavirus, obviously. 

According to Vox, there are a few different reasons for the low number of flu cases. Obviously, fewer people are out and about than usual. Most years, almost no one wears masks or socially distances, while this year, many people do. And the flu is clearly less contagious than coronavirus is. 

And also, when some people may have gone to work or kept previous social engagements while sick with the flu, the experience of coronavirus has likely encouraged people to have the possibility of transmission at the top of their mind. Moreover, the flu is often passed by children to each other, but because of the coronaviru in most of the country schools are either closed or subject to social distancing measures. 

FiveThirtyEight also recently looked at the lack of flu this year, and it noted that the lack of flu transmission this year is a worldwide phenomenon. 

"We don't track the flu the way we track COVID-19," that report said."The average seasonal flu exists in a weird liminal space, serious enough to keep an eye on, but also not so serious that we are literally trying to count every single case. After all, most people who get sick with the flu won't even bother to go get tested for it. They'll have a couple bad days in bed (if they're able to take off work) and otherwise go about life basically unchanged."

Last fall, there was frequent worry that once the winter hit, it would lead to an especially terrible few months as coronavirus and flu struck at the same time. But the flu side of that never quite materialized. 

When the Trumpists were complaining that we never masked to prevent our 50k flu deaths a year they accidentally had a point. 

Posted by at February 20, 2021 8:30 AM