Digital Exclusive: Health officials see low number of cases during 2020-21 flu season

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(KCAU) – While the COVID-19 pandemic has been the main health news since the beginning of 2020, what about the flu?

Across the country, including in the tri-state area, there has been a decrease in the number of flu cases this flu season.

“So, transmission of the viruses is very similar, if not the same, especially these respiratory viruses like the flu and the COVID are respiratory, for the most part, spread,” said Dr. Thomas Morgan, M.D., Siouxland Community Health Center.

“We have not seen any lab-confirmed in-patient cases. I will tell you that we’re seeing that across the state of Iowa. So this entire flu season, they have seen less than a dozen hospitalized flu cases,” said Jodi Arnold, infection prevention manager at MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center.

Local health officials said a possibility for the low number of flu cases is due to the safety precautions from COVID-19.

“There’s not as many flu cases this year, I feel, due to people wearing masks, social distancing, and washing their hands. We’ve also seen a lot more people get their influenza or flu vaccine this fall and winter, which I think has also helped,” said Cindy Lewin, advanced nurse practitioner at UnityPoint Health- St. Luke’s.

But Tyler Brock, deputy director of Siouxland District Health Department, said the low number in flu cases is a bit mysterious but the social distancing and masks might be helping with that.

“There’s plenty of COVID being spread around too, and that’s a respiratory virus, despite all of the things that we’re trying to do. So, if COVID is spreading, but influenza is not, you know, there must be something else going on there, OK. We don’t know, we don’t know exactly why that might be,” said Tyler Brock, Siouxland District Health Department.

The pandemic has helped affect the number of flu cases because people have been following the health guidelines for COVID-19.

Health officials mention for the rest of the flu season, they’re expecting the flu cases to stay lower than normal.

“From this time period compared to last time period, so we’re at low activity for lab-confirmed cases. Last year at this time, we were almost widespread across the United States. It’s strange, I will say, it is unusual,” said Arnold.

Brock adds it’s never too late for people in Siouxland to go and get their flu shots, if you haven’t had influenza yet.

If you have already received a COVID-19 vaccine, officials say to wait two weeks before getting a flu shot.

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