COVID-19 pandemic precautions keeping flu numbers low this year

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- It's always unpredictable when we start to see flu activity pick up, but typically by now we'd be seeing many more people with the flu.

It could just be a mild flu season. However, most healthcare providers say pandemic precautions are definitely playing a role.

Dr. Judd Hollander, Senior Vice President and urgent care physician at Jefferson Health, says the same precautions we take to prevent COVID-19 also decrease chances you'll catch the flu and that seems to be holding true, even with more testing.

"In our urgent care centers for example, if we test you for COVID, we test you for the flu. About 30-40%, sometimes 15% have COVID, it's zero flu," he said.

Nationally, the CDC reports minimal to low flu activity in all 50 states during the last week of December 2020. Compare that to last season, same week in 2019 where several states were already reporting high and very high flu activity.

The flu vaccine also likely plays a role. Preliminary data shows vaccination rates among adults went up more than 40% from last season to this season.

Dr. Hollander said "We were never really as careful as we should be in flu season."

He hopes lessons will be learned from the pandemic, even with a COVID-19 vaccine, many measures like good handwashing, masks in crowded spaces and distance will help protect more people from many different illnesses.

And there is one more factor to consider as to why we're seeing more COVID-19 cases and many more deaths from it than we see from the flu.

Overall COVID-19 causes more severe illness and when it comes to the flu, people have some immunity against that virus from previous infections or vaccinations, but most people have no immunity to the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
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